Building upon a three-decade-long relationship with Kennesaw State University, Michael and Donna Coles recently announced a significant gift to establish a scholarship endowment benefitting veterans of the Armed Forces.
The Michael J. and Donna N. Coles Veterans Scholarship Endowment Fund, made possible by a $1 million gift to KSU, will help lessen the financial burden of veterans who have exhausted their GI Bill benefits before the completion of their degrees. Military veterans have long been a soft spot for the Coles, as Michael was named for his uncle who died serving his country and Donna’s father served in World War II.
“Through their generosity, Michael and Donna Coles are elevating KSU’s efforts to support the men and women who bravely serve our country,” said KSU president Pamela Whitten. “We are incredibly fortunate to have donors like the Coles who are ensuring that veterans will achieve their educational dreams at KSU.”
The latest gift is just the next chapter in a longstanding relationship between the Coles family and KSU, which began in 1990 when the Great American Cookie Company founder Michael Coles joined the institution’s board of trustees eager to help continue its upward trajectory.
“Donna and I are so honored to make this gift to KSU,” said Michael Coles. “Military veterans have always had a special place in our hearts. When I ran for the U.S. Senate in 1998, I made many friends in the military and was saddened to learn how little the government does for them. This is our way to honor their sacrifice by offering some help for a better life.”
In 1994, through their Coles-Novak Family Foundation, the Coles gave KSU its first seven-figure gift, and the following year KSU renamed the business school the Michael J. Coles School of Business, now the College of Business. In 1998, the college awarded Coles with the Beta Gamma Sigma Medallion of Entrepreneurship. The next year he received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters and was a 2015 inductee into the Coles College Hall of Fame. Coles remains a member of the KSU Foundation Executive Committee.
Throughout the 2018-2019 academic year, the College celebrated “The Year of Michael J. Coles,” commemorating the 25th anniversary of becoming the Coles College. Since the initial gift from the Coles in 1994, KSU has seen exponential growth in its business-focused disciplines, including the successful launch of the Georgia WebMBA and the College’s first doctoral program in business administration. In that span, the College’s enrollment more than doubled from 3,075 to 6,869. As of the fall 2020 semester, the College has more than 7,700 students.
Beyond his commitment to KSU, Coles has been heavily involved in the greater community. He is the former chair of the Georgia Film Commission and KSU Foundation Board, and served on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and the Walker School Board in addition to being involved in a wide variety of nonprofit philanthropic organizations.