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New endowments provide support for faculty, students in political science and criminal justice, music

Two generous gifts to Abilene Christian University will provide funding for faculty in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice and a student scholarship in the Department of Music. Dr. Neal Coates, professor and ​​chair of political science and criminal justice, established the two endowments in honor of his late wife, Cynthia Coates.


Cynthia Coates

The $1 million Cynthia Coates Endowed Chair for Political Science and Criminal Justice will be designated for faculty support, research and development. Funds may also be used for guest and part-time professors or for other designated needs of the department.

In the Department of Music, students will benefit from a separate gift establishing the Cynthia Coates Endowed Flute Scholarship. The award will be given to an instrumental education major (with preference given for flute majors) upon entering the clinical teaching semester or to an outstanding flute major who is a leader in the Big Purple Band and exemplifies a life of service.  

“These incredible gifts will benefit students and faculty for generations,” said Dr. Robert Rhodes, provost. “An endowed chair in Political Science and Criminal Justice will be instrumental in attracting and retaining talented faculty for decades to come. Likewise, the endowed scholarship in music will be a blessing to the student recipient and an important way to support outstanding students in this major. I am humbled by Dr. Coates’ generosity.”

Cynthia Coates graduated from ACU in 1987 and died Sept. 14, 2021, at age 57. As a student, she was a proud member of the Big Purple Band and first-chair flute in the Symphonic Orchestra. After earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, she served as an elementary English as a Second Language teacher and school district coordinator. Cynthia was active in youth and children’s ministry with Church of Christ congregations in Kansas, Connecticut and Texas. In addition to being a mother of five, she was a den leader for Cub Scout Packs in Abilene and a volunteer at Taylor Elementary School and Abilene Christian School. She served for a decade as the children’s minister at the Hillcrest Church of Christ and twice as a house parent at ACU’s Study Abroad program in Oxford, England. 

She also helped found the Anencephaly Support Foundation, was a board member for the Brazos Valley Crisis Pregnancy Center, and was instrumental in the creation of a Birth Defects Registry in the Texas Department of Health. Those commitments grew out of her love and appreciation for life and for her son, Samuel, who died as an infant. A highlight of Cynthia’s advocacy was her testifying at the American Medical Association Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs to reverse a rule allowing organs to be harvested from anencephalic infants. 

— Wendy Kilmer

Dec. 15, 2022

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