Graf_Coyner_JoeAndSandraScientists, Investigators, Teachers

Those who know Joseph Graf would say he is a dedicated scientist— seeing both the rocks in the mountains and what’s needed for scientists to chip away the frontiers of knowledge and pass that knowledge on to others. Listen to Sandra Coyner and you’ll quickly hear her passion for evidence, learning, and fairness. Both pursued teaching and administration at SOU.

Sandra, Joe, and their son, Coyner Graf, joined the SOU community in 1995 from Manhattan, Kansas. Over a decade later, Coyner ’06 graduated cum laude from SOU, with an honors degree in ACS biochemistry. His enormous potential was cut tragically short in defiance of the hopes and expectations of his family, friends, teachers, and coworkers when he died in early 2008 at the age of twenty-three. Sandra and Joe responded by establishing an endowed scholarship in their son’s name.

A geologist, Joe served as dean of the SOU School of Sciences from 1995 to 2007. He also taught classes regularly, enthusiastically pursuing grants that resulted in substantial funding for teaching, research, and new equipment. His most recent success resulted in the Deer Creek Center for Field Research and Education (DCC) in Selma, Oregon, a partnership between the SOU Foundation and the Siskiyou Field Institute.

Sandra taught in the Women’s Studies program, University Seminar (formerly Colloquium), and the Honors Program. She served as co-director of Colloquium and director of the Honors program. Her gentle demeanor and intellectual rigor have inspired generations of students to pursue their dreams.

Joe and Sandra established the Coyner Graf Memorial Scholarship to remember their son in a way that would have been meaningful to him, as well as them. “SOU—and especially the SOU Chemistry Department—were very big and very positive parts of Coyner’s life,” they said. The scholarship “seemed a wonderful way to let part of Coyner live on by helping students like him succeed.”

The light of Coyner Graf’s life was chemistry, especially nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. After graduating from SOU, he moved to San Diego and worked for Ligand Pharmaceuticals. Coyner loved chemistry, San Diego, all good food and wine, mountain biking, idea-laden discussions, his music, and his friends and family—not necessarily in that order.