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The Rewards of Innovation

Donald Coates and Bernard Zapotowski holding the oaken bucket trophy smiling

Donald “Don” Coates (MS ME’66, PhD ME’70) didn’t originally plan on attending Purdue. He changed his mind, however, while working at the Grumman Aerospace Corporation. His boss, Bernard “Bernie” Zapotowski (AAE’54), was a proud Boilermaker who embodied the university’s innovative spirit.

Coates never regretted his decision to pursue both his master’s and doctorate degrees on the West Lafayette campus. Not only does he credit Purdue as the “launchpad” of his career, but he also met his late wife, Pat (BS M’70), on campus. “Meeting my wife was the best thing that happened in my life besides attending Purdue,” Coates says. “I have great memories of the university.”

Coates’s successful career in engineering has included serving in key roles at Maytag and Electrolux as well as receiving Purdue’s Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award in 1990. He has also taught courses, including inventive problem-solving, as an assistant professor at Kent State University.

Until he and Pat joined the President’s Council Advisory Board in 2017, Coates didn’t fully appreciate the hard behind-the-scenes work that ensures Purdue’s success. “On the advisory board, we got to know Mitch Daniels and Mung Chiang, and we gained insight into Purdue,” Coates says. “It made me want to contribute to the university.”

He made a pledge to establish the Donald and Patricia Coates Professorship in Mechanical Engineering. “I think the linchpin of innovation is problem-solving,” Coates says. “I want this professor to teach the methodologies that students and other professors can use to solve problems.” He hopes creating innovative solutions will also lead to higher-paying jobs in the United States.

Not only is Coates supporting Purdue, but he has also been on the receiving end of the university’s care. When Pat died earlier this year, members of the Purdue family reached out to him. Purdue and Coates have what he calls “a special cycle of mutual support.”  

Coates gained a lot of knowledge at Purdue but says one lesson stands out: “Purdue always showed that if you worked hard, you could do well, and they would reward you.” In the near future, he hopes the Coates professorship will help a faculty member—along with their students and colleagues—reap the rewards of problem-solving and innovation.

More President's Council News

Shari Harmon Ashkar leaning against a pole posing in front of a pool

Changing Lives One Stitch at a Time

“A college degree is life-changing,” Shari Harmon Ashkar (HHS’75) says. “We’re so lucky to have a world-renowned university in Indiana that offers not only a wonderful education but also wonderful opportunities
as you’re studying. I’m very proud to join with Purdue and help someone get a head start on a better life.”

Mark and Melanie Kidder smiling with their arms wrapped around one another

Lift as You Climb

“Lift as you climb” is a phrase Mark (S’95) and Melanie Kidder have come to live by. “You lift somebody else up and help them climb to the top with you,” Melanie explains.

Purdue for Life Foundation

Patsy J. Mellott

BS College of Health and Human Sciences, 1969
Fishers, IN

Patsy earned a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition in business from Purdue in 1969, in addition to an MBA in food marketing from Michigan State University in 1970. She retired from Kraft Foods in 2006 after 36 years in corporate food marketing and marketing communications management.

A community volunteer, Patsy serves on the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana Advisory Board and the Purdue College of Health and Human Sciences Dean’s Leadership Council, in addition to the President’s Council Advisory Board. She is a former member of the Health and Human Sciences Alumni Board. Patsy held several offices from 2006 through 2013, including president and treasurer. She serves her community’s Discover Indianapolis Club in Fishers, holding several leadership roles for over 10 years.

Patsy has received several honors, including the Purdue University Nutrition Science Department Hall of Fame recipient in 2009 and the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016. She also received the college’s Gold and Black Award in 2016, an honor reserved for donors who have moved the college forward by committing exceptional financial resources.

In addition to endowing two scholarships, the Patsy J. Mellott Scholarship and Patsy J. Mellott HHS Scholarship, she established the Patsy J. Mellott Teaching Innovation Award in the College of Health and Human Sciences in 2013. In 2015, she endowed the Patsy J. Mellott Women’s Tennis Coach Performance Award. She is a lead donor in the Christine M. Ladisch Faculty Leadership Award and the Purdue Women’s Network Virginia C. Meredith Scholarship for the College of Health and Human Sciences.