A late West Virginia University alumnus and World War II veteran has left $2.3 million in his will to the University.
The estate gift from Forrest D.L. Coontz will benefit students in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, significantly boosting the already established and endowed Forrest & Barbara Coontz Scholarship.
“We are continually impressed by the loyalty and generosity of our Statler alumni to provide very meaningful support for our students,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. “This gift provides scholarships for students that allows them to focus and dedicate their time to their studies and projects.”
Coontz, who attended Philippi High School in Barbour County, was drafted into the Navy after high school, serving aboard an infantry landing craft and gun ship in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. Part of his time at war included the taking of Saipan by American forces.
Following the war, Coontz went to WVU on the G.I. Bill (established initially to help veterans of World War II).
“Mr. Coontz’ generous gift is a testament to a lifelong commitment of service to others,” said Jerry Wood, director of the WVU Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs. “The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, played a critical role in the history of our nation.
“The legislation provided an opportunity for many returning servicemen to attend college that would have, more than likely, not otherwise had,” Wood continued. “It is plainly obvious that the financial investment our nation made in providing a path to education for Mr. Coontz in return for his service as a sailor in the Pacific is now providing an incredible return.”
Coontz enrolled at the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, eventually earning a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering.
Coontz climbed the career ladder with General Motors, being promoted over a span of 30 years from process engineer, general foreman, senior engineer to superintendent where he supervised the processes for the manufacturing of parts, and machinery used to produce them.
A couple of early career projects Coontz worked on included the manufacture of an 18-cylinder aircraft engine to be used in the Korean War effort and the launch of the V-8 engine plant that produced engines for 1955 model Chevrolets.
He eventually retired from the Flint, Michigan, GM V-8 Engine Plant in July 1980.
Coontz and his wife Barbara, who passed away in 2008, were married in September 1952. Barbara Coontz also had ties to West Virginia, as her mother spent part of her life in Morgantown.
Coontz, who was born in Star City, died in April 2018 at the age of 93.
“Like our post WWII veterans, today’s veterans and their families are fortunate to have the benefits of the Forever G.I. Bill,” Wood said. “Because of this benefit, WVU is home to nearly 500 students utilizing their G.I. Bill benefit. We are grateful to Mr. Coontz and his family for their generosity and are confident that our nation’s investment in today’s veterans will provide similar returns.”
The Coontz gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the non-profit corporation that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the University.