Late WWII veteran leaves $2M to benefit WVU engineering scholarship

MORGANTOWN — A WVU alumnus and World War II veteran, who died last April, left more than $2 million to the university.

The estate gift from Forrest D.L. Coontz will benefit students in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, significantly boosting the already established and endowed Forrest & Barbara Coontz Scholarship, according to a press release from the WVU Foundation.

“We are continually impressed by the loyalty and generosity of our Statler alumni to provide very meaningful support for our students,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. “This gift provides scholarships for students that allows them to focus and dedicate their time to their studies and projects.”

Coontz attended Philippi High School in Barbour County, was drafted into the Navy after high school, and served aboard an infantry landing craft and gun ship in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

Following the war, Coontz went to WVU on the G.I. Bill, which was established to help veterans of World War II.

“Mr. Coontz’s generous gift is a testament to a lifelong commitment of service to others,” Jerry Wood, director of the WVU Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs, said in the release. “The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, played a critical role in the history of our nation.

“The legislation provided an opportunity for many returning servicemen to attend college that would have, more than likely, not otherwise had,” Wood said. “It is plainly obvious that the financial investment our nation made in providing a path to education for Mr. Coontz in return for his service as a sailor in the Pacific is now providing an incredible return.”

Coontz earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

He worked for General Motors for 30 years and received several promotions from process engineer, general foreman, senior engineer to superintendent, where he supervised the processes for the manufacturing of parts and machinery used to produce them.

Projects Coontz worked on included an 18-cylinder aircraft engine used in the Korean War effort and the launch of the V-8 engine plant that produced engines for 1955 Chevrolets.

He retired from the Flint, Mich., GM V-8 Engine Plant in July 1980.

Coontz and his wife Barbara, who died in 2008, were married in September 1952. Barbara Coontz also had ties to West Virginia, as her mother spent part of her life in Morgantown.

Coontz was born in March 1925 in Star City and died at age 95 in April 2018.

The Coontz $2.3 million gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit corporation that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the university.

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