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Coplin Fans

August 6, 2019

Coplin Fans

The drive to fund a new scholarship reminds us there is an alumni community bound in the ways of Bill Coplin.

Elysa Wolfe and Bill Coplin in February, when Wolfe visited to launch the new scholarship fund.

By his own count, since he started the policy studies major in 1978, Professor Bill Coplin has taught Introduction to the Analysis of Public Policy to more than 6,000 Syracuse students, many of whom also completed the major, and some of whom didn’t. Among the 6,000 are hundreds who fashion themselves as devotées, as “Coplinites.” They credit “Coplin” (as he is universally known) with sparking their deep interests in community, service, and a world where good deeds are their own reward. When they encounter others who knew his effect, their kinship is close to “separated at birth.”

At present, their unofficial leader is Elysa Wolfe, who received her policy studies degree in 1993. When planning her philanthropic legacy, she thought first of higher education — which she calls “the great equalizer” — and then of Bill Coplin. She decided she would honor Coplin while helping others take the policy studies journey. She informed the University that she and her father were planning a large bequest that would someday fund the Bill Coplin Policy Studies Scholarship. The University said “Why wait?,” launched a fund drive immediately (which Wolfe chairs), and began to invite other Coplin alumni to contribute.

The response has been dramatic. At press time, including the Wolfes’ commitment, more than $650,000 has been raised from 40-plus donors, including a six-figure and two five-figure pledges, and gifts from two faculty colleagues. And things are just getting started. The goal is to secure $1 million.

With the gifts have come testimonials. Coplin “played an invaluable role in my career and life success and I have long been thinking about how best to give back,” said Heidi A. Ramirez ’96 BA (PSt), also an art education major. Worthing ’86 and Katrina Lenden Jackman ’85 did not major in policy studies, but took Coplin’s intro class. (They majored in finance and marketing/advertising, respectively.) Coplin was “engaging, thought-provoking, and a legend back then, and remains so today,” they said. (The couple remembers Coplin also because “we met freshman year as teaching assistants for Professor Coplin’s PAF 101 class.”)

When development officer Norma Shannon ’91 MPA invites alumni to cite a favorite professor, many mention they found their “home” in Coplin’s program. “They tell me Professor Coplin shook them up a bit and challenged them to be better and do more than they thought they could,” she says. His approach “is described as one part personal challenge, one part pragmatic engagement, and exposure to real-world problems outside the halls of academe.” Its lessons, she says, “have reverberated throughout their lives.”

Or, as Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud recently described it, “I can’t travel anywhere in the United States or the world without an alumnus coming up to me and thanking me for Bill Coplin.”

By Dana Cooke

Visit the Bill Coplin Scholarship page for more information and your opportunity to give.

Bequest Honors Coplin. Elysa B. Wolfe ’93 BA (PSt/PSc) and her father, Ralph G. Wolfe, have made a bequest commitment to Syracuse University, creating the Bill Coplin Policy Studies Scholarship. Prompted by the Wolfes’ gift, SU launched the Coplin Scholarship Fund, to which others are already contributing. (See story at left.)

Elysa Wolfe is an attorney in New York City who discovered the policy studies degree program while just a freshman. She says the degree and Coplin continue to inspire community service she performs today. “I especially appreciated how the program encouraged me to get out into the community, roll up my sleeves, and make a difference,” she says.

Coplin has directed the undergraduate policy studies major since 1978, and has consulted with more than 40 New York high schools on curriculum. He has written more than 110 books and articles in the fields of international relations, public policy, political risk analysis, social science education, citizenship, and community service.

This article appeared in the spring 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail

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