Newark, Ohio, November 17, 2015 — On November 6, 2015, Central Ohio Technical College President Bonnie L. Coe, Ph.D., was presented the Excellence in Higher Education Leadership Award by the American Council on Education Women's Network-Ohio. This is the network’s highest external honor and the first time it has been awarded to a community college leader.
This award recognizes an outstanding woman leader who has made significant contributions to higher education in Ohio. ACE Women's Network-Ohio explains that the award winner should have served as a role model and leader to other women in the field of higher education through her demonstrated commitment to the leadership development and advancement of women on her campus and in the community. Selection of the recipient is made by the ACE Women's Network-Ohio executive board.
Dr. Coe has won several awards—including the 2005 Licking County Women of Achievement Award and the 2008 Knox County Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business Leadership Award—during her tenure as president, but this one left her speechless. “I was taken aback, very humbled. My whole career flashed before me,” she said. “Throughout it I’ve always been interested in helping men and women advance in the workplace, but I’ve been particularly aware of women and the challenges they face.”
She began her professional career in the 1970s, an era she describes as having no women at the executive table and lacking anti-discriminatory legislation for workers. Though the history is stunning, Dr. Coe is quick to point out to young women that while overt discriminatory behavior is not common in the workplace today, it has been replaced with a more subtle counterpart.
Even though women are catching up, Coe says they are still behind today. Take for example higher education, where a woman is put in the executive position, achieves success, and then is nearly always replaced with a man. “I’m not whining. I’m not complaining,” said Coe. “I’m just saying it is still tough for women at the executive level.”
For a woman from Appalachia, a region not known for producing college graduates, to make it to the top is a remarkable accomplishment. Dr. Coe credits education for making a difference in her life. Education is empowering, she says, and is the foundation for success. Secondary to education are the mentors—“four men and one phenomenal woman”—that guided her.
“I didn’t achieve this level of success on my own. Both men and women opened doors for me and they role modeled for me,” explains Dr. Coe. “As I get closer to retirement, I’ve become obsessive with trying to help other people because other people have helped me.”
This obligation to mentor the next generation led Kim Barton, J.D., assistant director of development at COTC, to nominate Dr. Coe for the ACE Women's Network-Ohio Excellence in Higher Education Leadership Award.
“Dr. Coe’s belief in the importance of higher education is genuine because of her humble beginnings, and as a result she has encouraged dozens of female employees on the campus to further their education. Then when you think about the fact that she is a mother of seven who has achieved so much in her career, you can't help but feel inspired," said Barton.
Dr. Coe’s pay-it-forward mentality is permeating the ranks of COTC’s leadership team. Jacqueline Parrill, Ed.D., vice president for institutional planning and human resources development at COTC, serves on the executive board at ACE Women's Network-Ohio. Parrill received the network’s inaugural Institutional Representative Outstanding Service Award in 2009.
Parrill pursued her doctorate degree at Dr. Coe’s “consistent and gentle nudging.” She says, “Dr. Coe is unwavering in her speak about the importance of achieving your next degree. She willingly shared her own story as encouragement. She balanced seven children, a husband, a very responsible job and the farm, and was able to achieve her professional goals.”
Numerous COTC staff and faculty members have pursued higher education at all levels, as well as participated in professional mentorship roles at state and national organizations as a result of Dr. Coe’s guidance. There are seven people, however, that hold the most significance in her lengthy record of accomplishments: “My children are my greatest legacy.”
Central Ohio Technical College is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs, as well as encouraging the professional development of students, staff, faculty and administrators to assist them in achieving their maximum potential. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.