SU Voice Alumni Blog

Class of 1971 Sweethearts Reflect on their SU Journey and Look Toward Homecoming

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on Thursday, October 7, 2021 at 12:00 AM PDT

As the Seattle University Alumni Association gears up to celebrate the Class of 1971 (and beyond) at the 50+ Reunion during Homecoming (Nov. 11-14), we took a moment to connect with Jim and Carolyn Coe, two married Class of 1971 alumnae currently serving on the planning committee. Carolyn, ’71, was an intensive care nurse for 44 years and Jim, ’71, was a high school teacher and assistant principal. Though they live in California’s Bay Area, thanks to the power of regional events—and more recently Zoom—they’re able to stay connected to the university and decades of Seattle U classmates.

Looking toward Homecoming next month, Jim and Carolyn reflect that “SU gave us not just our educations, but friendships and connections that have lasted a lifetime. Whenever we attend Alumni Association events, we meet old and new friends—it’s a special feeling and we have a lot of fun. It also keeps our school spirit alive and helps spread the word about the university. Even here at home, we love running into people wearing their SU gear out and about. Everyone experiences the university in their own way, but we’re all united by how holistic and inspiring those experiences were. The more that we can help people hear about SU, the more this opportunity can be extended to others!”

Jim chose SU after receiving a scholarship that covered tuition for all four years. Carolyn was encouraged to look into SU by a friend who had a Jesuit family member teaching at the university. She then chose the university for its comprehensive four-year nursing program, which offered more breadth and a deeper patient-centered, holistic approach than the popular two- and three-year programs of the day. As an English education major, Jim also enjoyed his program’s “whole-person” approach—eventually. “We had to take five philosophy and four theology courses! We all cursed it because we just wanted to get to our major-specific coursework, but looking back I really benefited from those. That background knowledge added a lot of depth to my understanding of literature and improved the way I taught it.”

Jim and Carolyn met sophomore year after arriving to a university dance at the same time. They also eventually took a psychology class together, where Jim trained a fish to swim through a hoop but Carolyn found her success cut short—and her fish in literal hot water—due to an overly aggressive Bellarmine radiator. Squeezing in time together in those days was difficult. Jim would finish classes, do homework and then head straight to his evening job. And, until moving into apartments their senior year, the mingling of different genders was tightly controlled on campus through single-sex dorm buildings and strict curfews. But Jim and Carolyn found opportunities to steal time together: visiting the Student Union, attending movies and Alpha Phi Omega events, cheering on basketball games, participating in book sales and blood drives, and walking through campus as the leaves turned fall colors—even enjoying Carolyn’s first ever snowfall together.

After graduation, Jim and Carolyn had to move to Yakima to find employment opportunities, but they still kept in touch with their faculty mentors. “We graduated during a tough time for Seattle, amidst the Boeing bust. Even though we had to move, faculty encouraged us to continue our intellectual and professional development, wrote us notes, and even visited from time to time.” Jim and Carolyn went on to have three children, including a son who graduated from SU in 2000. “He toured and got into a lot of great schools, but SU was his favorite because of their well-rounded approach. Some of his siblings’ experiences felt like a cattle call more than a classroom—nothing personal and kids just packed into rooms—but his worth as an individual was recognized at SU. He loved the balance of technical and liberal arts education in his biochemistry program, as well as the tight-knit cohort of the Honors Program. His wife is an SU graduate as well! We’re really grateful for the care and the great education he received.”

Jim and Carolyn have been giving back to the university, through small but impactful gifts and volunteering, for a whopping 44 years. Because of his full tuition scholarship, Jim was able to graduate without debt. He understands first-hand the difference this makes for students and young professionals, and wants to be part of increasing access to that opportunity for more Redhawks. Jim and Carolyn also support the basketball program, thankful for the excitement it brought them as undergraduates and the continued yearly opportunity to get together with friends and fellow alumni for Bay Area games.

The couple is greatly looking forward to Homecoming’s festivities next month. “Whenever we’re able to visit Seattle, it’s an amazing feeling walking through campus and seeing how it has changed—more student housing, the updated library, the construction of the Law School, the Student Center, and now the Center for Science and Innovation. You want to see your university thriving, growing, continuing to provide this lifechanging education to the next generation. The new buildings and programs show that SU’s special formula is still relevant. It’s working and more people want to be a part of it.”

We hope you’ll join Jim and Carolyn for the Homecoming celebration by attending the 50+ Reunion, GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) Reunion, Thursday’s Veterans 5k, Friday’s Parade, Sunday’s Alumni and Students of Color Social, or the big game and rally at the new Climate Pledge Arena (tickets available Oct. 18)! See more details and register here. Go Redhawks!