Major gift will help Furman students make career choices

John and Jeanette Cothran of Greenville are providing a major gift to support Furman University’s Center for Vocational Reflection, school officials said Thursday.

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

University officials said the donor didn’t want the amount to be made public but it is a significant gift.

According to Mike Gatchell, Furman’s vice president for development, the Cothrans’ 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 benefited 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.