Dr. Jerry Coffey
Emeritus Professor, Dr. Jerry Coffey, Establishes Endowments for Science and Humanities in the College of Letters and Science
Dr. Jerry Coffey, Professor Emeritus in the Department of English, came to Montana State University in 1972 seeking the allure of the mountains and an institution where he could thrive and pursue his research interests. Jerry taught linguistics courses at MSU, which always positioned him on the scientific side of the humanities.
During his career, Jerry was awarded two Fulbright Scholarships and his professional interests and active lifestyle have taken him around the world. This love for exploration enabled one of Jerry's most fulfilling professional experiences. Working with Dr. John Miller, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Cell Biology & Neuroscience, Jerry developed a neurolinguistics course on language and the brain for students in the Honors College.
The burgeoning field of neurolinguistics holds tremendous potential for interdisciplinary collaboration and research across the sciences and the humanities. By bridging the gap between neurology, neurophysiology and linguistic theory there are now unprecedented opportunities for deeper understanding of brain health and brain development.
Jerry wants to ensure the continuation of this kind of interdisciplinary partnership. To do so, Jerry has made a planned gift to establish two endowments in the College of Letters & Science. In addition to establishing a new scholarship in the college, his gift will provide endowed funds to advance collaboration between the sciences and the humanities at MSU.
For Jerry, learning about science as a humanities scholar, and in turn the opportunity for scientists to find connections for their work within the humanities, are integral tasks for everyone in these fields. "All students need a background in science to understand the tools they are working with. They should be able to think scientifically." Without it, Jerry says, students are merely learning "how to eat fish, without learning how to fish."
Jerry has been a loyal supporter of Montana State University throughout his career, and has always sought out opportunities to give back and advocate for the causes he cares about. In 1985 he established the Betty Coffey Award for Women in Engineering in honor of his late wife, a computer scientist and the first female tenured faculty member in the College of Engineering. Jerry also served as the head of the MSU Benefits Committee for many years, and was involved in the creation of the MSU association of retired faculty.
As emeritus faculty, this gift is an opportunity for Jerry to establish his legacy. "You spend your whole career with the institution and you develop a vision for where it should go, and you still want to be able to have an impact on the future."