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Gift will help students find their calling

Each term, the Center for Vocational Reflection facilitates a pilgrimage day hike for students.

GREENVILLE, S.C.—Furman University officials announced today that John and Jeanette Cothran of Greenville are providing a major gift to support the university’s Center for Vocational Reflection.

The center, which helps students explore and discover their calling in life, will now be named the John and Jeanette Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection.

According to Mike Gatchell, Furman’s vice president for development, the Cothrans’ substantial commitment, when added to funding from other donors, will ultimately ensure a $3 million endowment for the program.

“The Center for Vocational Reflection is one of the university’s most valuable programs, and this generous pledge ensures that Furman students will continue exploring opportunities in life that mean the most to them,” said Carl Kohrt, Furman’s interim president. “Exploring life’s meaning is at the heart of a liberal arts education, and we are deeply grateful to John and Jeanette Cothran for their efforts to support that important mission.”

Established in 2001 through a grant from the Lilly Endowment, the Center for Vocational Reflection serves Furman students, faculty and alumni with an interest in faith and vocation.  The center also provides resources for the Greenville community through annual public lectures and other events.

“The college years are critically formative years in the life of a student,” said John and Jeanette Cothran.  “It is a time when values and personal identity are fleshed out, strengthened or, in some cases, dramatically changed.  Providing students with the environment and the tools to enable them to critically and fully examine key life questions is as important, if not more so, than any academic course they might choose to pursue.  Our goal is to make sure these opportunities are always available to assist students in dealing with the vitally important issues that will enable them to find their true calling in life.”

In addition to sponsoring a nine-day residential program for incoming freshmen each year, the center offers students the opportunity to participate in mountain retreats, hikes, workshops and an annual retreat to Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner. The center also sponsors a number of service-learning projects that involve students and alumni, and more than 100 faculty members from all academic departments have benefitted from a series of year-long seminars designed to explore topics that help professors better discern their vocation as teachers and scholars.

John and Jeanette Cothran are members of Furman’s Heritage Society, and they were founding members of the Partners Program, which provides scholarship aid to Furman students.  They have four sons, two of whom graduated from Furman.

John Cothran, a 1954 Furman graduate and longtime university trustee, has been a leader in real estate development in Greenville for five decades. The retired chair of the Cothran Company, he is past president of the Greenville Board of Realtors and Home Builders Association and has been honored as Realtor of the Year and Homebuilder of the Year.  He is also a member of the South Carolina Housing Hall of Fame.

Cothran has served on the boards of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, Greenville Jaycees, Habitat for Humanity, Greenville Urban League Community Housing Corporation, and First Union National Bank Advisory Board. He currently serves on the Boards of GBS Lumber, Inc., Hollingsworth Funds, and is chairman of the board of Verdae Development, Inc.

Cothran has a long history of service to Furman.  He has served numerous terms on the Furman Board of Trustees, including a term as chair, and is currently a trustee emeritus.  He is past chair of the Advisory Council and past president of the Paladin Club.  He received the Furman Alumni Service Award in 1992.  He is a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Greenville where he has served in multiple leadership roles, including two terms as chair of the Diaconate.

Jeanette Cothran attended Mars Hill College and graduated from Winthrop in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree.  She served as a Meals on Wheels volunteer for 30 years, and is a former director of the James F. Byrnes Foundation.  She is also an active member of First Baptist Church, where she has served as a senior deacon, director of the WMU, and Sunday school director and teacher.

For more information, call Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107 or visit the Center for Vocational Reflection at



Last updated February 22, 2016
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director