Creating Opportunities (Philanthropy Edition)

Creating Opportunities (Philanthropy Edition)

Pacific University launched Janet Copeland’s lifelong pursuit of education. When she earned her doctorate at age 65, she and her husband celebrated by endowing a scholarship at Pacific to give someone else the same start.

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Janet (Beyer) Copeland ’64 was 16 when she came to Pacific University.

She’d started school a bit early and completed two grades in a single year to graduate early from her high school. Then, she set out to find a college as far from her Texas home as possible.

“I wanted to see something different and be away from home,” she said.

At Pacific, she found a new world.

“Being at Pacific just opened my thoughts to the whole world of everything,” she said.

In the early 1960s in Texas, she had attended an all-white high school.

“Then I went where there were all kinds of races and experiences and other cultures. It was wonderful to meet all these people who had had all these different experiences I had never imagined,” she said.

Though she spent less than two years at Pacific, that time changed her.

That’s why, when Copeland earned her PhD at the age of 65, her husband decided to honor her — and the beginning of her journey — by establishing an endowed scholarship at Pacific University.

“It was a way to honor her, a way of saying, ‘I love you, I’m proud of your accomplishments,’” Phillip Copeland said.

“For her, she was living in a provincial setting and going somewhere with a much better vision of what life was like. We’ve had many conversations about the good days she had at Pacific.

“I’d like to see other people get the opportunity she had.”

Janet Copeland said she and her husband would call themselves “renaissance people.”

“Like da Vinci, he did everything under the sun. Except he was really good at what he did and we’re not,” she said, laughing. “Our approach to life is that you take in everything that you can. It all started at Pacific for me.”

As much as she loved her time at Pacific — and she recalls fond memories that range from her freshman class hiding all of the university’s silverware in protest of a senior declaration that first-years couldn’t eat with forks to experiencing the art, music and writing in Dr. Frank Chipp’s western culture class — she left before graduating, feeling a bit homesick and, she said, “tired of school.”

She married, worked as an administrative assistant at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, served as a house mother as her husband worked in the seminary’s housing department, and had a son. 

When she was 40, she wasn’t feeling so tired of school. She started taking part-time classes through the seminary while working, eventually earning her associate degree, the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, then two master’s degrees, one in divinity and one in Christian education.

After she retired, she decided to go on for her PhD in administration as that’s what she’d done much of her life.

Some people, she said, might celebrate such an accomplishment with a trip. But the Copelands had other plans: “We’re all for giving back to further somebody else along the line that we traveled.

“Pacific has always been very dear to my heart. I’ve given a little money over time but never had very much to give,” she said.