Alumnus Michael Coffey Gives Back to UC Davis through the LEADR Program

Michael Coffey, retired senior vice president, global delivery and assurance at AT&T Services, Inc. and UC Davis College of Engineering alumnus (B.S. ’84, electrical engineering), is giving back to the UC Davis College of Engineering through an endowment fund for the Leadership in Engineering Advancement, Diversity and Retention (LEADR) program. 

The LEADR program is a student support program in the College of Engineering whose mission is to recruit, retain and graduate a diverse population of undergraduate engineering students and prepare them for post-graduation careers, whether it be in industry or graduate school. 

Michael and Jody Coffey
Michael and Jody Coffey

The Coffeys have been long-time supporters of the program through current-use gifts. In fall 2020, they committed $50,000 to establish the Michael and Jody Coffey Fund for LEADR and have allocated another $250,000 through their estate to bolster the fund in the future. This was the first endowment for LEADR, and ensures that it will have perpetual support. These funds help support the program’s greatest needs, such as student scholarships, trips to visit industry partners, mentorship activities and various learning sessions. 

“This is a commitment to future generations,” said Coffey. “My education from UC Davis was the starting point of my journey to success, and I hope that this gift will provide opportunities for students to discover and achieve their potential too.” 

LEADR offers advising that focuses on academic and personal growth, professional development and career readiness support. To join LEADR, students must be the first in their families to attend college or be a part of the Educational Opportunity Program, have participated in a mathematics, engineering, science achievement (MESA) pre-college program such as Upward Bound or a similar enrichment program, or be a student who has potential for leadership in increasing the participation of students in engineering from historically underrepresented groups. 

"My education from UC Davis was the starting point of my journey to success, and I hope that this gift will provide opportunities for students to discover and achieve their potential too." -Michael Coffey

Coffey was the first in his family to attend college and his wife Jody says that he would not be where he is today if it weren’t for UC Davis. Coffey started to get involved with LEADR while he was working at AT&T, and it is something that he remains passionate about as he visits UC Davis annually to meet and talk with the students. 

“As a first-generation college student, I resonated with the mission of LEADR, what it stands for, how it welcomes and engages students, the sense of community it offers and the tools it provides to students to overcome obstacles and achieve life goals,” said Coffey. 

Students at the 2018 LEADR Summer Bridge program.
Students participating in the LEADR program. (COE Staff/UC Davis)

He wants to help ensure that undergraduate students in the college can enjoy access to beneficial resources such as the LEADR program. 

“I want the students we are supporting to know that anything is possible,” said Coffey. “If they work hard, stay focused and determined, and position themselves for opportunities to succeed, then good things will happen.” 

This story was featured in the Fall 2021 issue of Engineering Progress.

Tanya Whitlow

In Memoriam: Tanya Whitlow

Tanya Whitlow started the LEADR program in 2012 to provide a support group for first-generation students grounded in an advising foundation. She served as director of the program until May 2021. 

Chevron, one of the program’s sponsors and supporters, recently allocated $50,000 to seed an endowment in Tanya’s honor. Anyone who knew and admired Tanya, or believes in the LEADR program, is invited to invest in this scholarship. If you would like to contribute to the Tanya Whitlow Scholarship with Support from Chevron and Friends, please visit:

“Chevron was compelled to seed an endowment to the LEADR program to honor Tanya’s legacy and commitment to first-generation and underrepre-sented students,” said Cynthia Murphy-Ortega, manager, university partnerships and association relations, Chevron Corporation and UC Davis Col-lege of Engineering alumna (B.S. ’91, chemical engineering). “We hope these funds continue to support LEADR’s mission and help make an impact on these students for years to come.” 

Read more about Tanya’s legacy here:

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