CORVALLIS - Three brothers and their families have given a gift to Oregon State University in honor of their father, a long-time Corvallis jeweler, that will help establish a chair in OSU's Austin Family Business Program.
Patricia Frishkoff, director of the program, will be the inaugural holder of the A.E. Coleman Chair in Family Business.
The gift from brothers Richard A. Coleman, James E. Coleman and John N. Coleman, and their families, will be matched by the university to establish the chair. Their father, Alfred E. Coleman, died in 1972 after 45 years in the jewelry business. His sons say he had a profound and lasting impact on their lives. "Dad was always a great supporter of OSU and sent all of his three sons to its business school, so it has always been close to our hearts," said James Coleman. "To support the Austin Family Business Program was the best way to show our appreciation to OS U and help family businesses succeed." A.E. Coleman Jewelers, the second oldest jewelry store in Oregon, has been under continuous family management for 72 years. Alfred Coleman opened the store as a watch repair shop in 1927, and kept expanding his business for 20 years, when he opened his v isionary "dream store." Its large layout and displays, with handmade furnishing and fixtures, set a new standard for Oregon jewelry stores that was duplicated throughout the state.
A gifted jeweler, Alfred Coleman also was an inspirational person, his sons point out. Born in 1902 in Elk City, Kansas, he was one of 11 children in a farm family. He contracted polio at the age of nine after moving to a homestead in Myrtle Creek, Ore., and was left with only partial use of his legs, requiring two crutches for the rest of his life.
He overcame the disability and took up archery, becoming state champion in 1931 and 1932. To help inspire others, he wrote an autobiography, "Sticks," which is scheduled for publication next year. In a written statement, the three sons said: "Dad is the hero to his three sons because he taught us to follow our dreams, to be all we can be, to never give up, and that every goal is within our grasp. We believe his legacy will inspire and educate othe rs to have a successful family business." Oregon State President Paul G. Risser said the gift will take the Austin Family Business Program to a new level.
"This gives the program the potential to become one of the leading resources in the world for helping family businesses," Risser said. "As a university, we can accomplish even more through successful partnerships with individuals, the community and indust ry."
OSU's family business program was launched in 1985 to help family businesses, which represent up to 90 percent of all businesses in Oregon. It was renamed the Austin Family Business Program in 1994 after a gift from Ken and Joan Austin of Newberg, Ore. < p> "The Coleman gift is another major breakthrough for the College of Business," said Donald Parker, dean of the college. "It again distinguishes the college in an area of strength and gives the family business program even greater national prominence."
As first holder of the A.E. Coleman Chair, Frishkoff continues her leadership in helping family businesses thrive. She has been on the OSU faculty since 1978.
"The significance of this gift is that it insures the future of the program and it enables us to have a greater effect on a larger population of family-owned businesses," Frishkoff said. "Above all, the generosity of the Coleman's benefits business owner s and their families."
Richard A. Coleman began his business studies at OSU, then received a degree from the University of Oregon in 1955. After successful careers in personnel and medical sales, he launched a third career, teaching children with learning disabilities. He and his wife, Edy, of Dublin, Calif., have five children.
James E. Coleman attended OSU business school for two years and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1958. Co-president of E. & J. Gallo Winery, he has been with the company for 40 years, helping the family-owned business become the largest winery in the world. He and his wife, Sue, of Modesto, Calif., have eight children.
John N. Coleman earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from OSU in 1964. He worked as a manager in a plywood mill for two years before joining the U.S. Marine Corps. After an honorable discharge, he returned to the family jewelry business and also is a successful viticulturist, growing award-winning chardonnay grapes near Corvallis. He is the father of two children. Vera Coleman, mother of the three Coleman boys and widow of Alfred Coleman, worked with her youngest son, John, until her late 80s. She died last January at the age of 94.