Main Content

ACU Remembers: Dr. Nancy Jane Johnson Coates

Professor emerita of education Dr. Nancy Jane Johnson Coates died Nov. 27, 2019, at age 85.

A memorial service will be held Dec. 24, 2019, at 10 a.m., at Piersall Funeral Chapel (733 Butternut St., Abilene, Texas 79602).

Coates was born Nov. 10, 1934, in Paducah, Kentucky, and graduated from Obion (Tennessee) High School in 1952. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University (1963), a M.Ed. in early childhood education from Morehead State University (1972) and a Ph.D. in early childhood education and curriculum from Texas Woman’s University (1985).

She met Ed Coates during the freshman class welcome picnic at Lipscomb University, where she worked for the bursar. The couple married during her sophomore year. They lived in Balmorhea, Texas; Murfreesboro and Knoxville, Tennessee; and Morehead, Kentucky. While in Tennessee they helped found Knoxville Christian Schools, with Jane its first teacher.

In the summer of 1972, Ed and Jane moved to Abilene, Texas, to join the faculty at ACU, where they would teach for 35 and 21 years respectively, while sharing an office suite in the Department of Teacher Education. He retired in 2008 and she retired in 1993.

She taught in Greece in 1982, was named a Texas Sesquicentennial Women’s Scholar in 1986 and taught in Honduras in 1988. She was a Certified Family Life Educator, on the National Council on Family Relations, and served as chair of the Abilene Teachers Center. She began the ACU Education Endowed Scholarship program. She also was a featured speaker at the American Medical Association and authored Crosscuts, the pre-kindergarten curriculum adopted by the Texas Education Agency, and the State Board of Education – published by SEA and McMillian/McGraw Hill School Publishing Company. Coates was a charter board member of the Big Country Association for the Education of Young Children, and in 1988 was awarded the Abilene City Council PTA Advocate for Children Award.

She was preceded in death by Ed, her husband of 54 years; her parents, Nathan Calhoun Johnson and Dimple Lee Jones Johnson; a brother, Nathan Calhoun Johnson Jr.; a sister, Ann Marshall Johnson Reeves; a son, Nathan Coates (’78); and grandsons Isaac Coates and Samuel Coates.

Among survivors are her daughter, Nancy (Coates ’78) Penney; sons Nick Coates (’81), Nelson Coates (’84) and Dr. Neal Coates (’87); 17 grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; and 22 great-grandchildren.

Memorials can be made to the Drs. Edward and Jane Coates Endowed Scholarship for Education at ACU ( or Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132).

— Ron Hadfield

Dec. 23, 2019

SHARE: [Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]