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The mission of Furman University’s Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection is to provide resources for students, alumni, faculty, and staff to reflect upon their vocational choices through three essential questions:
- Who am I—most authentically?
- What do I believe—most deeply?
- What does the world need—from me?
As Kate Hofler Dabbs wrote in the Furman News on August 29, 2013, after graduating from Furman in 1954 and serving in the army, John Cothran returned to his Greenville home searching for a calling. “I had visited the new campus numerous times on return trips while stationed at Fort Knox and would pass through the front gates to see the progress,” he says. “One day my father (a 1922 graduate) invited me to tag along to see the cornerstone placed for the library. He pointed at a man across the crowd, E. Roy Stone, and said, ‘Mr. Stone is a prominent Greenville real estate man. Let me introduce you; you may want to go into the real estate business.’ ”
Cothran soon did join Stone in the real estate profession. He opened his own company in 1962, and would go on to run many other real estate firms in a career that would span more than five decades.
Perhaps it is this memory of finding his own calling that inspired Cothran, a longtime Furman trustee, and his wife, Jeanette, to pledge a major gift that, when added to gifts from others, will ensure a $3 million endowment for the Center for Vocational Reflection. “Jeanette and I always wanted to invest in people. It’s one investment that never goes down in value,” he says.
Established as the Lilly Center in 2001 through a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., the center is now named for the Cothrans. Its aim is to provide resources for individuals and groups to reflect upon their vocational choices through thoughtful, open dialogue while seeking to stimulate and inform social action. “The college years are critically formative in the lives of students,” the Cothrans said in a statement. “Providing them with the environment and tools to enable them to critically and fully examine key life questions is as important, if not more so, than any academic course they might pursue.”
The James B. Duke Library houses three of the center’s publications.
Callings (2017) edited by Dr. David Bost features contributions by present Furman faculty members, a 2001 alumna, and Deb Richardson-Moore, an author and pastor of the non-denominational Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, South Carolina, where she works to make homeless parishioners feel respected, loved and empowered to seek jobs and housing. Chapters include:
- Do ethicists need ethics? / by Dr. Karen Guth, Furman alumna, Class of 2001
- Calls / by Dr. Brent Nelsen
- Called to be a peacemaker / by Dr. Jason Cassidy
- From a sigh to a self / by Dr. Aaron Simmons
- Pause, listen, and trust / by Dr. Meghan Slining
- Conversations / by Dr. Sofia Kearns
- Our triune God: closer than you might think / by Deb Richardson-Moore, author and pastor of the non-denominational Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, South Carolina, where she works to make homeless parishioners feel respected, loved and empowered to seek jobs and housing
Discerning Vocation: Faculty Stories (2014) edited by Dr. David Bost features contributions by past and present Furman faculty members and David P. Gushee, the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Mercer University. Chapters include:
- The struggle for human dignity: my vocation journey / by Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Mercer University
- Dreaming dreams, living lives: what’s calling you now? / by Dr. Jeremy Cass
- Dreaming dreams, living lives / by Dr. John Beckford
- Conversations / by Dr. Linda Bartlett
- Sharing stories / by Dr. John Harris
- Seeking a delicate balance / by Dr. Angela Halfacre
Testimonies of Vocation (2011) features contributions by a 1956 alumnus and past and present Furman faculty members. Chapters include:
- Three things you must know to escape the clutches of the evil one / by James L. Crenshaw, Furman alumnus, Class of 1956
- Dreaming dreams, living lives / by Dr. John H. Crabtree, Jr.
- Dreaming dreams, living lives/ by Dr. Paula Gabbert
- Thoughts about my journey / by Dr. David Rutledge
- Dreaming dreams, living lives / by Dr. Carmela Epright
- What really matters / by Dr. David Gandolfo