MERCED, CA — Tony Coelho, a former U.S. Congressman who represented California's Central Valley for more than a decade and pioneering advocate for a University of California campus in the region, has committed an endowed chair to the University of California, Merced. A special ceremony will be held this afternoon (Friday, January 25) in Merced to announce the Tony Coelho Endowed Chair in Public Policy and to recognize his longtime commitment to the 10th UC campus.
“For our campus to have a faculty chair bearing the name of Tony Coelho is indeed a privilege,” said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. “He is a visionary leader whose work to promote education, disability awareness, agriculture and many other important issues has improved the lives of millions of Americans. Tony Coelho's dedication to public service will live on in the faculty research and education of future leaders made possible through this endowment.”
Public service and patriotism will be underlying themes of today's ceremony at the Merced County Courthouse Museum. Following Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey's announcement of UC Merced's 12th endowed chair commitment, Coelho will present an address and engage in a question-and-answer session with students in the Advanced Placement Government classes at Merced High School. Also featured on the program is a performance of patriotic music by members of the Livingston High School choir.
“As the San Joaquin Valley's premiere institution of higher education, UC Merced will play a pivotal role in moving this region forward into a new era of educational and economic opportunity,” said Coelho, a native of Los Banos. “My hope is to encourage students in quest of a future in public service, whose best preparation would be pursuit of an education at UC Merced. The University of California has a tradition of graduating students equipped with the skills and training needed to help shape our future.”
A founding member of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees, Coelho began his career in 1965 as a legislative assistant to Congressman Bernie Sisk before being promoted to serve as his chief of staff from 1971 to 1977. Upon Sisk's retirement, Coelho was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 1981 to 1986 and then as the first elected Majority Whip from 1987 to 1989. He also served in senior positions on the Agriculture, Interior and Administration Committees during his years representing the Central Valley in Congress from 1979 to 1989.
Perhaps most significant in his legacy of contributions as a Congressman, Coelho, who has epilepsy, authored the Americans with Disabilities Act, recognized as one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in the last 30 years.
Promoting awareness and rights for people with disabilities continues to be a top priority for Coelho, who in 1994 was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and in 1998 was appointed Vice Chair to the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. He also serves on related non-profit boards, including the Epilepsy Foundation of American, the National Organization on Disability, the National Rehabilitation Hospital and Very Special Arts.
After leaving Congress, Coelho has maintained his commitment to public service while building a successful career in private business. In 1989, he joined the New York-based investment firm of Wertheim Schroder & Company, Inc. as a managing director. He also was appointed as president and chief executive officer of Wertheim Schroder Investment Services. In 1995, Coelho left to form ETC w/tci, an education and training technology company in Washington, D.C., working in the capacity of chairman and chief executive officer until 1997.
His current business affiliations include positions on such public and private corporate boards as BestHalf.com; ColumbusNewport, L.L.C.; Cadiz, Inc.; Cyberonics, Inc.; DeFrancesco & Sons, Inc.; Fairfax Partners, L.L.C.; Kistler Aerospace Corporation; Ripplewood Holdings, L.L.C.; and Service Corporation International. Coelho also serves on the International Advisory Board of Fleishman Hillard, Inc.
In the arena of public service, Coelho has been appointed as co-chair to the U.S. Censoring Monitoring Board, U.S. Commissioner General to the 1998 World Exposition in Lisbon, Portugal, and a member of the Presidential Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the United States Intelligence Community. He also sits on the boards of non-profit organizations that include the National Foundation for Affordable Housing Solutions and the George Washington University's National Council for Political Managements.
Among the many honors Coelho has received for his distinguished career in public service are the Victory of the Human Spirit Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital and the first “Tony” Award for Public Service and Advocacy for People with Epilepsy from the Epilepsy Foundation of America.
He earned his bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1964 from Loyola Marymount University, where he served as student body president, and has been granted honorary doctoral degrees from Loyola Marymount University, Santa Clara University and the Universidade Nova De Lisboa in Portugal.
Today, Coelho and his wife, Phyllis, reside near Washington, D.C.. They have two daughters, Nicole and Kristin.
Endowed chairs and professorships at UC Merced will facilitate the hiring and retention of outstanding faculty. Income generated by the endowments assures a continuing income flow to fund the research of faculty members appointed to fill these positions. UC Merced may also seek endowments that will pay the salary of the professor as well as offer research funding.
The Tony Coelho Endowed Chair in Public Policy is one of 12 endowed chairs committed to the UC Merced campus. Other donors and their designated endowed chairs are: William and Dorothy Bizzini of Atwater, Biotechnology/Biological Sciences; Walter and Isabel Coats of Merced, Arts; County Bank (Tom Hawker) of Merced, Economics; Ted and Jan Falasco of Los Banos, Earth Sciences; the late Vincent Hillyer of Los Banos, Early Literature; Margaret and the late Joseph Josephine of Fresno, Biological Sciences; Art and Fafa Kamangar of Merced, Biological Sciences (nutrition and preventive medicine); John Myers of Merced and Beverly Hills, Sierra Nevada Research Institute; Keith and Elinor Shaffer of Santa Cruz, Engineering (chair also named for Bettylou George of Merced); and Ramakrishna, Sumana, Vikas and Ramesh Thondapu of Merced, discipline to be decided. In addition, the University of California has provided UC Merced with a President's Chair, with the Chancellor determining the specific application of funds.
With the commitment of a dozen endowed chairs, UC Merced has received more such endowments than any other university campus in the United States prior to opening.
UC Merced currently employs more than 90 educators and professionals. The UC Board of Regents recently approved the long-range development plan for the main campus in Merced, which is scheduled to open in fall 2004 to serve 1,000 students. Over coming decades, the campus will grow to serve 25,000 students. UC Merced also contributes to educational access through the entire San Joaquin region via special educational and outreach centers in Fresno and Bakersfield, and through the Tri-College Center in Merced. An additional UC Merced center is planned for Modesto.