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Farewells: Jean Coblentz, '47

Lifelong Volunteer

By Diana Aguilera

Jean Coblentz endeavored toward making Stanford and the world a more joyous place, and the common thread that tied her efforts together was community service. “She would drop what she was doing to help anyone,” says her son Scott.

Jean Galt Coblentz, ’47, died on December 5, 2017, in Sunnyvale. She was 91.

The daughter of Presbyterian missionary doctors, she was born in China. Her family moved back to the United States in the mid-1930s, and at age 16, Coblentz received a scholarship to Stanford; she postponed matriculation so that she could work for a year, and arrived on campus in 1943. In her senior year, Coblentz became a member of Cap and Gown, and she maintained an active, lifelong tie with the organization. In 1953, she co-founded the Cap and Gown Alumnae Board. And it was at Stanford where she met her future husband, whom she referred to as “handsome Harry” (’49). Her former roommate Barbara Ward Thompson, ’47, recalls Coblentz’s quick wit, positive outlook and infectious smile, and says Coblentz “charmed everybody she met.”

She was dedicated to the university, spending nearly three decades working on campus with the Office of Development, where she spearheaded the successful Stanford Parents’ Program. She contributed her story to the Stanford Historical Society’s Oral History Program in a candid recorded interview in 2011. She served on the Stanford Associates’ Board of Governors until age 90, and served two terms with the Associates of Stanford Libraries. An avid reader, Coblentz founded a book club in the 1960s called Book Tasters, which remained close to her heart until her passing. Her memoir, Take Your Cookies When They’re Passed, shared her favorite advice: to seize opportunities when they present themselves, just as she did when a development officer recruited her to Stanford—a moment, she said, that changed the course of her life. 

Coblentz had planned to retire from her position at Stanford at age 65 but continued working for the university for nine more years. Then she joined the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park, and was soon elected to serve as its president. Several years ago, she received a President’s Volunteer Service Award—specifically, the Lifetime Achievement Award—in recognition of her 50-plus years of community service and fund-raising for the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Coblentz was predeceased by her husband; her daughter Janice; her brother, Alan; and her step-granddaughter, Trina. Her sister Alice (Galt, ’52) Griggs died in May. She is survived by her daughter Kathleen Coblentz Miana and sons, Martin and Scott; five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and sister Cornelia Leach, ’57.

Diana Aguilera is a staff writer for STANFORD.


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