Dr. Bonnie Coe
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Ask most youngsters about Christmas and they will say their favorite part is all the new toys wrapped in shiny paper under the Christmas Tree. To build on that excitement, the Mount Vernon News, is thrilled to announce “March of the Toys” as this year’s Christmas parade theme.
MOUNT VERNON — Her plan was to retire quietly. No fanfare, no dinners, no good-bye speech. She almost made it. Central Ohio Technical College President Dr. Bonnie Coe will retire Jan. 1, 2019, but not before serving as grand marshal in the 2018 Mount Vernon Christmas Parade, Nov. 25.
“My eyes welled up with tears,” Coe said about her initial response to the request from News Publisher Kay Culbertson. “The Christmas Parade is your hometown. The Mount Vernon Christmas Parade has been so very special to me, my husband, my family. It’s so special to us.”
The former Bonnie Bosworth and Knox County resident Larry Coe, were married in 1970 at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church after meeting as students at The Ohio State University. They enjoyed the start of their professional careers in Knox County as well as the start of their family.
The Coes, including their seven children, embraced the Christmas Parade annually while living in Knox County. For Coe, the invitation to lead the parade brings her family full circle in the tradition.
“The parade had been a part of our family,” Coe said. “I can remember bringing our children and I know where we stood — on Mulberry Street in front of G.R. Smith.”
Because she fondly holds on to the memories of her own children enjoying the parade, Coe realizes the “magic” of the event.
“It’s not about our own children anymore. It’s the faces of those children from a parade perspective. It is the joy you see in the faces that evokes the emotion.”
While the Coe family left Knox County to follow careers, it was an opportunity at Central Ohio Technical College that opened the door for a return to Central Ohio. At COTC, Coe served as chief academic officers for three years before being named college president. In those years, 15 as president, Coe’s focus on Knox County lead to not only the growth of the Knox Campus at Ariel Hall, but started the rebirth of downtown Mount Vernon and the attraction to higher education.
“I was always impressed with the county and the commitment of the county to education,” Coe told the News. “It was the continuum of education in Knox County that always attracted me.”
With fine public and private education, the growth of Mount Vernon Nazarene University and the near Ivy League status of Kenyon College, Coe recognized the “gap” in education in the county and made the push to find a permanent home for technological education in Knox County.
A small group of local leaders “took the college under their wing to get a more permanent presence,” Coe said.
After touring several possible locations in Mount Vernon and throughout the county, Coe said she realized the perfect location for the Knox Campus driving through downtown.
“We were headed down South Main Street and I said, ‘That’s it. That’s the building,’” Coe said.
That building was the former movie theater at the corner of East Ohio and South Main streets. Coe’s keen eye and passion to repurpose or rejuvenate a building rather than build new, was the start to downtown Mount Vernon’s rebirth.
“We were the first college committed to downtown with a $5.8 community and college investment,” Coe said.
Coe’s passion for learning, her resolve to renovate an old building for a higher purpose and her humility are just a few of the reasons Culbertson feels the college president — and former Knox County Porkettes president — is a perfect selection for grand marshal.
“I have always admired her,” Culbertson said of Coe. “She is pleasant and humble and knows how to get things done. Dr. Coe really sets a good example for everyone.”
“I am very proud to have been asked,” Coe said. “I will do my best to bring dignity to the role and to the community.”
Bonnie and Larry Coe live on a Licking County farm 2 1/2 miles from the Knox County line. They will be joined in the parade by Bonnie’s sister, Margaret White of Gallipolis.
The Christmas Walk, sponsored by Main Street Mount Vernon, will take place in downtown Mount Vernon, Sunday, Nov. 25, from 1-5 p.m. The parade, organized by the Mount Vernon News, will start at United Prestress Industries on Howard Street. It will hit South Main Street beginning at 2:30 p.m. and travel north to Public Square.