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Curiosity, Commitment Define Couple’s Marriage — and Their Philanthropy

Charlie and Marty Coe stand outside their front door
Charlie and Marty Coe, pictured at their home in 2016.

Long-married couples have stories to tell. They have tips to offer — wisdom to learn from. Charlie and Marty Coe documented theirs in a book.

Drawing from their nearly 50 years of marriage and more than two decades as volunteers with marriage help and enrichment programs, the Coes wrote Love is a Decision: A Marriage Enrichment Handbook. Published in 2009, it’s a “how-to” workbook filled with exercises designed to help couples “understand themselves better and improve their relationship.”

“We had all this material from our time with Marriage Encounter, Retrouvaille and marriage enrichment programs,” Charlie said. “We decided it needed to go into a book, so everyone could benefit from it.”

The marriage handbook, recently updated with four new chapters and forthcoming instructional videos, serves as the latest example of the Coes’ impressive commitment to education. Enthusiastic to share what they’ve learned with others, the Coes have thrived as teachers — Charlie as a public administration professor at NC State and Marty as a high school world history instructor.

Now retired, the Coes want to ensure that other scholars have the appropriate resources to continue creating and sharing knowledge. It’s a large reason for their recent bequest to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, where their gift will benefit research in the School of Public and International Affairs.

It’s important to incentivize academics to explore and learn, because that’s an important part of the job.”

— Charlie Coe

After 33 years at NC State, Charlie said he knows how hard it can be to secure funding for research, especially in the social sciences.

“It’s important to incentivize academics to explore and learn, because that’s an important part of the job,” Charlie said. “Any research costs money, whether it’s a survey or you’re talking to folks — I can think back to things I would have liked to do if I had a little more money.”

Career Built on Curiosity

Charlie made a career out of pursuing his curiosities about the many facets of public administration. At NC State, he developed a prolific track record as an author of textbooks offering practical insights to various fields: nonprofit management, urban services, public budgeting and risk management, to name a few. His drive has continued into retirement: he recently submitted a new manuscript for a book documenting 115 examples of successes and failures in government.

Charlie’s interest in exploring the different disciplines began before he entered academia, while he was working for the city manager in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fresh off earning a master’s degree, Charlie said he lacked many of the core skills the job required. He felt exposed.

The Coes in their home in Raleigh.

“I remember sitting in meetings, worrying if someone would ask me a question about anything,” Charlie said.

While discomforting at the time, the experience became his motivation finding answers to a range of topics related to government, nonprofits and budgeting. Over the past three decades, he’s shared his findings through more than a dozen publications.

“A lot of it is applied and practical stuff, but it’s stuff I wished I had learned earlier,” Charlie said. “I’ve always tried to keep in mind that young guy or gal at their first job, dazed and worrying if someone would ask them something they didn’t know.”

Funding for Grad Students

In regards to their gift, Marty said she expects the funding will also benefit students. Support for graduate student research or travel to research conferences are a couple of possible areas, she said.

“Graduate students need to be in the mix of meeting and talking to other people in their fields, and that takes money,” Marty said.

Marty worked as a teacher at Needham Broughton High in Raleigh, specifically focusing on world cultures and religions. She also spent four years working at NC State, both as a recruiter for the Master of Public Administration program and a residency director for The Graduate School.

Graduate students need to be in the mix of meeting and talking to other people in their fields, and that takes money.”

— Marty Coe

In fact, the entire Coe family has connections to the Wolfpack. The Coes’ son, Lincoln, took post-graduate courses at NC State, and their late daughter, Heidi, graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work in 1997. Marty said Heidi, who had cerebral palsy, worked for nine years to earn her degree, receiving help along the way from NC State’s Disability Services Office.

“She loved NC State — she agonized over the football games,” Marty said.

Charlie and Marty have also become big fans of the ‘Pack over the years — the cutout of the Tuffy mascot on their front door serves as proof. They hope to impart some of their pride through their gift and contribute to the support they’ve received at the university.

“Public service and administration — they exist for a good cause and have good results,” Charlie said. “But also, it’s just such fun finding out new things. We want to support that process.”

Learn how you, too, can help support research by making a gift to the college.