Emilea Smith Copeland Honors Son's Memory With Planned Gift for Scholarships
When Emilea Copeland graduated from high school in 1960, she knew she would be headed to Jacksonville State University for her education degree.
"My parents thought it would be an excellent and safe place for me for my first time away from home. I was only 17 and it was such a friendly happy place," she says.
She received her B.S. in Secondary Education in three years, graduating in 1963.
"My years at JSU were the best years of my life up to that point. JSU prepared me for teaching very well. As soon as I graduated, I got married, had two children and then taught middle school," she says.
While teaching and being a mom, Emilea also went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham and received a master's degree in Library Media, K-12. With this new certification, she worked at Erwin Elementary School as the K-6 media specialist.
It was her desire to honor her late son's memory that drove Emilea to establish the Rex Copeland Memorial Scholarship.
"My son was just 20 years old when he was killed. He was a junior in pre-law when he died. I wanted his life to be meaningful so I started the scholarship to help young people financially at JSU," she says. "How happy Rex would be to help someone with college education expenses. He was that kind of young man."
She has since added to the scholarship by making a provision in her will and life insurance policy to endow the fund so that the Rex Copeland Memorial Scholarship will help young people at the university in perpetuity. Not only will it help JSU students, but it helps Emilea as well.
"Establishing the scholarship helped me get beyond this. My life and Rex's life will have been meaningful," she says.
The scholarship benefits students in their junior year who have good grades and who graduated from the Birmingham City School system in Jefferson County, Alabama, just like Rex Copeland.
This is not Emilea's first gift to the university.
"We didn't have a lot of money, but I was always an alumni member and gave to the School of Education each year. JSU has come a long way in helping young people get an excellent education and in becoming professional people," she says.
She thinks that all alumni should give back to help the university improve.
"When that student calls each year, every alum should answer with a gift. It will keep our school strong and growing," she says.
Emily stays involved with JSU by serving on the School of Education Board of Visitors, which she believes helps the education curriculum remain current. She also attends athletics events whenever possible.
"My strongest ties are my memories there," she says. "I have worked with fine people at the university—the employees and the professors. I always knew in my heart that I would fund a scholarship when I could. Doing this in honor of Rex has been the most important thing in my life."
Earl Warren, JSU Director of University Development, says of the scholarship gift: "I have known Emily Copeland for many years and I am gratified that this scholarship in memory of Rex will benefit JSU students for years to come."
Honor Someone Special With a Gift to JSU
Like Emilea Copeland, you can make a gift to JSU in honor of someone special in your life. Contact Earl Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-782-5608 to learn more.