Family businesses rally to aid OSU fund drive


CORVALLIS - Gifts from more than 70 family businesses have helped Oregon State University's Austin Family Business Program complete a $1 million fundraising drive to establish and support the A.E. Coleman Chair in Family Business.

The drive was prompted by a one-to-one match $500,000 challenge gift from the A.E. Coleman family of Coleman Jewelers in Corvallis.

The original gift from brothers Richard A. Coleman, James E. Coleman and John N. Coleman, and their families, were made in memory of their father, Alfred E. Coleman, who died in 1972 after 45 years in the jewelry business. His sons say he had a profound and lasting impact on their lives.

Mark Green, director of the Austin Family Business Program, points to the work of his predecessor in the family business program as being the catalyst for the donations.

"Pat Frishkoff, the founding director, really deserves the credit," Green said. "Not only for working so hard to meet the match, but for creating such a valuable program. We're grateful so many family businesses have stepped forward to provide financial support."

"Since I advise founders to transfer a business that's in good financial shape, I'm proud to be following my own advice," said Frishkoff, who retired from the program this spring and was the first person to hold the A.E. Coleman Chair. "Finishing the Coleman match was important to the transition. I really appreciate all the folks who stepped forward to invest in the longevity of the Austin Family Business Program in this way."

Green said the private funding "will strengthen the program, and allow us to tailor offerings to fit even more specific needs of family businesses."

The Austin Family Business Program specializes in informing families about issues and topics important to family businesses, such as how to pass a business from one generation to the next. It also offers clients other business training, including a Web-based class on tax laws.

Because the program receives no direct state support and operates primarily on earnings from events and corporate sponsorships, private gifts are particularly important, Green said.

A.E. Coleman Jewelers, the oldest jewelry store in Oregon in the same building, has been under continuous family management for 75 years. Alfred Coleman opened the store as a watch repair shop in 1927.

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 the 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 43 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.