2019 Gift of Wisdom Award Winner

Congratulations to Dr. Mary Coburn, recipient of the Women for Florida State University’s 2019 Gift of Wisdom Award.

Dr. Coburn has established an unprecedented and lifelong legacy at Florida State University as well as within the Tallahassee region. A three-time graduate of Florida State, Dr. Coburn earned her bachelor’s in sociology, master’s in counseling and human systems, and her doctorate in higher education; however, her time at FSU didn’t end as a student.

Dr. Coburn’s professional career with the University began in 1981 working in student development and eventually paved the way to assume the role as vice president for student affairs in 2003. She wholeheartedly dedicated her time and efforts to ensure Florida State was a student-centric campus with a permanent culture where students were not only challenged academically but also motivated to be the best versions of themselves. From promoting diversity and addressing free speech issues, to implementing a University-wide Healthy Campus initiative, Dr. Coburn advocated for many programs and initiatives devoted to providing students every opportunity to thrive.

Though she officially retired in spring 2017, many individuals continue to speak highly of her genuine and amiable display of leadership. “She was always very warm and personable and took great interest in helping students succeed,” shared FSU Foundation Board of Trustees Executive Committee Member Julie Dunn Eichenberg in her nomination letter. “I particularly admire how she maintained her sense of calm in every situation, and those skills were tested multiple times throughout her career including when tragedy struck at Strozier Library.”

Even when the FSU community faced unforeseen adversity when an individual opened fire at the entrance of the campus library in November 2014, Dr. Coburn was commended for demonstrating quiet strength under the circumstances. Her grace under pressure and ability to jump into action and manage the unfolding situation while comforting students, their parents and faculty provided a calm and guiding presence through tragedy.

Beyond her tenure with the University, Dr. Coburn has positively impacted thousands of students and colleagues throughout her career. “Dr. Coburn’s willingness to extend her hand to many young women and students—including myself—has been life changing,” Dunn Eichenberg stated in her nomination letter. “She is an amazing role model as a University administrator, a mother, a friend, a true Seminole and someone who seems to balance career and family with pure grace. The mark she left on FSU’s campus will last for a very long time.”

A photo of Dr. Coburn wearing a red dress, standing outside with her hands folded, smiling
Dr. Mary Coburn