Board of Trustees member John ‘Bunyan’ Cole dies at 76

Trustees Lisa Ceci and John ‘Bunyan’ Cole review documents at the December 2013 Board of Trustees meeting. Cole died March 26 at the age of 76.

by Staff Writer Jasmine Fleming

The UNA Board of Trustees may have lost one of its most vital members but the contributions he gave will never be forgotten.

John ‘Bunyan’ Cole died March 26, at the age of 76.

“As a trustee for UNA, Mr. Cole was always a compass for me — sharing what the community was thinking, listening to my thoughts (and) imparting his own perspective born from a life well-lived,” said University President William Cale. “His wise words will be sorely missed by me, by the university, and by this community.”

Cole always put students first, which was evident through his actions, Cale said.

“There came a day not so long ago when he and his wife decided to create an endowed scholarship to further their long-held belief in the value of education,” Cale said. “John and Rosie Cole know that actions make a difference, and the John and Rosie Cole scholarship will forever echo through time, making education and success a reality for future UNA students. John Cole always showed his leadership by example.”

For the remainder of Cole’s trustee term, a new member will be selected in accordance with the relevant section of the Code of Alabama, Cale said.

“Trustees are appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Alabama Senate,” Cale said. “We would expect that in due course Governor Robert Bentley will nominate someone to fill the remainder of Mr. Cole’s term, and that person will become a permanent member of the Board for the remainder of Mr. Cole’s term if approved by the Senate.”

Cole was a well-respected and knowledgeable member of the Board of Trustees, said Trustee Steve Pierce.

“John was one of those people who was very soft-spoken and very wise,” Pierce said. “When he did speak, everyone stopped what they were doing and listened — because we knew what he was going to say was something we all needed to hear.”

Florence City Councilman Dave Smith said he had been an acquaintance and colleague to Cole since the 90s.

“I’ve been involved with John over many, many years through community service, the city, the chamber, and through UNA,” Smith said. “He’s going to be sorely missed because of his very keen sense for business and his willingness to do anything to help people. He would give you the shirt off his back.”

Being a trustee member was fitting for Cole, because he loved UNA students and the university as a whole, said Hermon Graham, Florence city councilman.

“He wanted the students from UNA to go out and excel,” Graham said. “ He supported young folks who were in college and encouraged them to go out and make something of themselves in life. He did that with his life and set an example.”

President Pro-Tempore Rodney Howard said Cole was a respected and dependable businessman.

“He had so much valuable knowledge of the board and what we try to accomplish.” He said. “He always had a broad view that included all people and looked for the best decisions to be made.”

Howard said the Board will be having a special meeting in April to discuss which direction they will be moving in.