Dedicated business alums endow scholarship for business students

Dedicated business alums endow scholarship for business students

Gary and Elspeth Coats in front of Elliott Hall
Gary and Elspeth Coats established a scholarship for students who are actively involved on campus

Gary and Elspeth Coats know numbers. They know profit and loss, the power of big data and just how much a scholarship can do for a hardworking student. That understanding led to the couple’s generous establishment of the Gary and Elspeth Coats Student Involvement Scholarship.

“We both received scholarships during our time at OU,” says Gary, ACC ’95, now a senior tax analyst for American Axle & Manufacturing. For those who may be juggling financial demands with academic ambitions, scholarships can ease everyday costs, from fees to books. “Every little bit helps.”

The scholarship is designed to encourage students who are actively involved on campus, whether that means engaging in campus clubs, playing on a sports team or working. “The emphasis is on the full college experience,” says Elspeth, MIS ’91, a senior business systems analyst for NetSol Technologies NA. “Grades play a part, but being involved on campus is very important.” 

She adds, “There are so many opportunities to be involved on campus, but unless you’re out there looking for them, you may miss them. My campus activities gave me as much education as my classes did.” 

As an OU business student, Elspeth worked in the residence halls at the reception desk. During two summers on campus, she was in charge of checking in all residential students for OU camps and even the Detroit Lions players who came to Oakland for training camp. She did all this while pursuing her degree and participating in the Management Information Systems (MIS) Club and Student Programming Board.

For his part, Gary was active in OU intramural sports and held tutoring jobs on campus. In his senior year he served as secretary for the Oakland Accounting Students Information Society and was a member of the MIS Club.

Despite their active schedules and shared interests at OU, the pair never crossed paths there. Instead, they met while working together at O/E Systems. Their first date was an OU basketball game, where they discovered a shared love for their alma mater. As a married couple, the Coatses remain active with the Oakland University Alumni Association and are annual contributors to the University’s scholarship fund.

At the annual OU Scholarship Dinner, hosted by the Alumni Association, the Coatses were introduced to some of the ways in which alumni can help support current students. 

“We have done well,” Gary says. “Both of us enjoy good careers, and we knew we could do this financially.” 

The couple worked with the School of Business Administration to set up the scholarship, which was awarded for the first time during the 2016-17 school year. The couple is funding the $25,000 endowed scholarship over three years, after which it will be awarded in perpetuity as an annual $1,000 scholarship.

True to form, the Coatses are also active volunteers in their Rochester Hills community. Elspeth and Gary have both served as president of the Rochester Area Jaycees at different times, and both volunteer with the OU Alumni Association and are active at their church. 

“We’ve always considered volunteering to be important,” Gary says. “When we learned about the scholarship opportunity, we knew we should do this as another way to give back.”

OU b-school students are encouraged to check out scholarships specifically for them. Scholarship applications are due March 23.