Lawrence Sylvester Coté

March 30, 1947July 24, 2016

Lawrence Sylvester Coté, 69, of St. Petersburg, FL, died on July 24, 2016, entrusting himself to Jesus Christ, in whose presence he longed to live and be healed following a year-long journey through severe pain and serious complications from multiple back injuries, surgeries, and degeneration. Though his body succumbed, his spirit and faith remained strong as he trusted in God’s victory by His grace. He leaves his beloved wife of nearly 36 years, Mary Kay Coté. He was also surrounded by family, and especially his brother, Steve, throughout this final journey.

The son of the late George A. and Wilmadine “Penny” G. (Doak) Coté, Larry grew up in Springfield, MA, before entering the United States Army, Corps of Engineers (1966-1968; Rank of Specialist E5 at discharge). He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service in the Republic of South Vietnam in 1968. Subsequently, Larry earned degrees from Penn State University (B.S.; 1972), Lehigh University (M.Ed.; 1975), and Temple University (Ed.D.; 1984).

Dr. Coté’s 37-year career in higher education was dedicated to the belief that American colleges and universities can and should have greater impact on society’s needs through knowledge creation and engagement in public affairs and service. His early service as an academic in PA included a role as Assistant to the President and Executive Director, Northampton County Area Community College Foundation (1974-1976), in various positions in continuing education and outreach at three Penn State undergraduate campuses, and as an Assistant Director at Penn State’s eastern PA graduate campus (1972-74, 1976-79, 1979-83).

These roles led to his appointment as Campus Executive Officer (CEO) of Penn State University’s Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies (1983-97). Through the efforts of faculty, staff, program partners, and volunteers, his team tripled graduate enrollment, academic programs, and faculty, including a name change and physical relocation of the campus to a business park in 1989. The outreach program grew from 500 to 3,000 students. His team developed funded research and established strong financial support through endowments, private gifts, and grants. His collaborative approach in metropolitan Philadelphia with two other Penn State campuses yielded a well-regarded public affairs series – The Penn State Forum.

The passion of Dr. Coté for education that benefited the broader community converged with an appointment to West Virginia University (WVU) as Associate Provost, Extension and Public Service, and Director, West Virginia Cooperative Extension Service (1997-2006). As a member of the Provost’s staff and President’s cabinet, he provided overall leadership of WVU’s extension, outreach, engagement, and public service mission in collaboration with a statewide network of regional campuses, colleges, schools, research units, and distance learning sites. Dr. Coté directed the statewide WVU Extension Service, 55 county extension offices, the 525-acre WVU Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp, and programs serving the state population of 1.8 million.

Dr. Coté’s exemplary work through the WVU Extension Service saw an increase in the number of West Virginia citizens served each year and a four-fold growth in private and grant funds. His passionate advocacy for the service mission of our nation’s land-grant universities positioned WVU as a leader of the national extension system. He was honored to serve as chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP), an elected committee within the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC). He was commended by WVU’s President, David C. Hardesty, Jr., as a vocal champion for the service mission, for the citizens of West Virginia, and the renovation of WVU’s Jackson’s Mill 4-H Center, which he reconceived as a special mission WVU campus. This included the construction of the WVU Extension Service State Fire Training Academy.

Dr. Coté’s broad and influential career culminated in a return to the heart of leadership formation through the teacher-student relationship. He was the founding faculty director of a new undergraduate Leadership Studies academic minor offered by the Division of Public Administration in the School of Applied Social Sciences in the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences (2006-09). Fittingly, his significant collection of awards was capped by the WVU Distinguished Faculty Award, in acknowledgment of a lifetime of service and a commitment to developing student leaders (2008).

Dr. Coté contributed many professional presentations and publications in his field. For all his professional efforts, he received numerous additional awards and honors from boards on which he served and organizations that commended his exemplary service, including several commendations from the Pennsylvania State Senate. Selected awards and honors are listed here:

• Larry and Mary Kay Suite, Mt. Vernon Dining Hall, WVU Jackson’s Mill – through a $25,000 contribution to renovate the suite, WVU administration commemorated the Cotes’ commitment to this historic facility (2007) • Annual Coté Leadership Award – recognition of exemplary leadership among staff of WVU Extension (2007) • Administrative Leadership Recognition Award, National Honorary Extension Fraternity, Epsilon Sigma Phi, West Virginia, Phi Chapter (2006) • Award of Excellence for New Program Excellence, West Virginia Country Roads Scholars Tour (2003) • The Honor Society of Agriculture Gamma Sigma Delta Certificate of Membership in recognition of high scholarship, outstanding achievement, or service (2001) • Inducted into Epsilon Sigma Phi, National Honorary Extension Association (1997) • Named Businessman of the Year, Great Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce (Malvern, PA; 1993) • Awarded the George Walk Award, distinguished dissertation of the year, College of Education, Temple University (Philadelphia, PA; 1984) • Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi honorary societies, The Pennsylvania State University (1972) • Designated an Evan Pugh Scholar, The Pennsylvania State University (1970-72)

Of his many professional presentations, one that remained on the forefront of his mind, which he talked about in his final week of life, was a joint presentation that he made with his wife, Dr. Mary Kay Coté, in 1990. More than the content of this presentation, his grateful reflection was that he and his wife could work mutually and in an excellent manner for the benefit of something outside of their family. This presentation demonstrates the core values of Larry’s life: to be connected to his wife and their family in reaching out in service to the community that surrounded them. This was especially evident in his decision to retire early from WVU in 2009 in order to provide full-time care for his dear wife.

Along the way, they took great care to beautify the properties that they called home, for visiting family, friends, birds, and their pet dogs over the years, for whom they cared as dedicated owners. Larry participated in the Big Brother program while living in eastern PA. They were glad to open their hearts and home to Mary Kay’s niece, Kylie Puglin, who lived with them for many years. Larry also served in various roles at Community United Methodist Church in Grafton, WV, and he appreciated his time at Seminole United Methodist Church in Florida.

Through his surviving brother, Stephen P. Coté, and his wife, Joyce, surviving sister, Sandra C. Cobb, and her husband, David, and members of his wife’s family, Larry has thirteen nieces and nephews and over thirty great-nieces and nephews, who affectionately knew him as “Uncle Larry.” The most-recently-born great-nephew, Joshua Lawrence Coté, son of Timothy and Christa, was named in honor of him. His nieces and nephews are Jeffrey Cobb, Mark Coté, Mary Weaver, Andrew Coté, Melanie Munir, Anne Marie Walny, Rebecca Erb, Tiffany Puglin, Jonathan Coté, Timothy Coté, Kylie Puglin, Joanna Herr, and Ava Puglin. A close family and group of friends grieve his passing yet rejoice in the love he invested in his family, which will carry on for generations to come.

One very special great-niece in Larry’s life was Victoria Grace, daughter of Mark and Kristin. Victoria only lived for six days on this earth in 2008, because of a malformation of her brain. The meaning of her life, helpless in terms of human accomplishment, yet a blessing beyond measure through belonging to God as His beautiful servant, profoundly impacted Larry’s life and testimony of “being” and “doing.” One man, who accomplished so much, was brought to a point of complete surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, in part through the story of a little baby who could seemingly accomplish nothing. In the end, Larry gave thanks for his life, which found ultimate fulfillment not in what he did, but who he was, as one fully belonging to God. Larry was eager for the legacy of his life to be joined to Victoria’s in serving others, especially children around the world in desperate need of basic medicines and medical care. To this end, his family invites gifts in lieu of flowers to be sent to the “Uncle Larry Memorial of Victoria’s Little Lambs Fund” (; gifts are tax-deductible and should be made payable to Zion Church of Millersville, 317 N. George St., Millersville, PA 17551).

A memorial service to celebrate Larry’s life will be held on Saturday, August 6, at 2:00 PM, with family visitation beginning at noon, at Zion Church of Millersville, 317 N. George St., Millersville, PA 17551. A meal in Zion’s Fellowship Hall will follow the interment and military honors in the church cemetery.


  • Family Gathering Saturday, August 6, 2016
  • Memorial Service Saturday, August 6, 2016

Lawrence Sylvester Coté

have a memory or condolence to add?

William Milheim

September 20, 2016

Larry was the CEO at Penn State Great Valley when he originally hired me for that campus. He continued to be a strong supporter for me and the other people who called that campus home. I also knew his wife, Mary Kay, through her work in Continuing Education at Penn State.

As someone who eventually served as CEO at the same location, he continued to be an inspiration to my work there. I also saw the many, many ways he served that campus so well during his years there.

As an outstanding administrator and a role model for me, I was truly saddened when I recently learned about his passing.

September 13, 2016

Larry and I had fun together in our Penn State days. A good man and colleague.

Patricia Book

August 17, 2016

Dear Mary Kay and family, I'm saddened to see this unwelcome news. Far too young. Please know that you are in our thoughts. We offer you our deepest sympathy. Pat and Pat

Fred Loomis

August 16, 2016

Adding my thoughts and prayers to the other wonderful tributes expressed by Penn State friends of Larry and Mary Kay. Larry represented the very best of what it means to be a leader - compassionate, caring and committed, always doing good in service to others. His leadership in developing the plan for Penn State Great Valley created tremendous opportunities for adult learners and for the faculty and staff. Without Larry's vision and keen political skills, there would be no Penn State Great Valley today. This was just one of his many professional accomplishments. But what stands out most of all is not what he did, but how he lived -- with faith, grace and respect for others.

Blessings to Mary Kay and the Cote family,

Fred Loomis, College of Education, Penn State University

Elaina McReynolds

August 8, 2016

Larry was the kindest CEO of an campus that i have worked with and for. Bless him with angels and MaryKay and the family.

John Beavers

August 5, 2016

Larry and Mary Kay provided the much needed motivation for me to return to night school, transfer to Penn State, and earn a BA degree. I will always be grateful for their guidance.

Jan Dreachslin

August 3, 2016

My thoughts and prayers are with Mary Kay and family at this time of loss. Larry was CEO of Penn State Great Valley when I joined the faculty in 1991. He and Mary Kay welcomed me to the Philadelphia area with personal kindness and support as well as the gift of a beautiful sun hat for gardening at my new home. My academic career and my life's garden have flourished and blossomed in no small measure due to Larry's inspirational modeling of service leadership, caring, and inclusion. He led our campus through a period of rapid growth and demonstrated respect for every student, every staff member, and every faculty member. His humility also impressed me. Larry didn't hesitate to ask for help when he needed it and gave ample praise to faculty and staff for their contributions to our campus' excellence in teaching, research, and service. Larry was one of a kind and I was honored to know him. Jan Dreachslin, Professor Emerita of Health Policy & Adminstration, PSU

August 2, 2016

Dear Mary Kay,
I was so saddened to learn of Larry's passing. I know this is a terrible time for you in your grief. I have you in my thoughts and
prayers and remembering the good times we had in Morgantown.
You both have been missed, your friendship was very special.
My love to you and the family,
Mary Ann Farmer

Nurkiewicz Family

August 2, 2016

We were extremely saddened to hear of Larry's passing. We only knew the Cote's for a short time but they made an ever lasting impact on our lives. They encouraged us to purchase a home in the neighborhood of Ridgeview Estates and we couldn't be happier with this decision. We were proud to call Larry our friend and neighbor and extend the friendship started years before when Larry worked with Tim's father, Dennis Sr. at PennState. Larry and Mary Kay will always be remembered with love in our hearts. Our deepest condolences.

Patty McFadden

August 1, 2016

Larry was an inspiration at Penn State because he was a dignified leader, a thoughtful prolific writer, and a true gentleman. And he had a laugh that was contagious. As the poet laureate for the Campus, I submit my poem writeen for Larry and read at his retirement dinner in March 1997. Larry Cote's name and the man will never be forgotten throughout Penn State but especially at the Great Valley campus:

It's hard to image Penn State without Larry Cote our Chief
Our fearless leader, high commander, I'll try to be brief
As a businessman, manager, magician and mentor
Dr. Cote incubated the PSGV Graduate Center
He was destined to live up to the meaning of his name
"Cote": "to pass by or surpass" he has done without shame
The first-ever university in a corporate park
Larry boldly brought corporate training out of the dark
From Radnor to King of Prussia to Malvern, but more --
The distance we've covered is greater for sure.
Education, management, engineering, high tech
Larry's well-planned Learning Model went into effect
But to reflect more personally on the man who's a pro
At developing the talent to help others grow.
Larry's commitment to diversity, both professional and personal
Long associated with Big Brothers; his work inspirational
Founding member, past president, Businessman of the Year
The Great Valley Chamber hosted a dinner for their peer
Larry, as you leave Penn State to take this next fork in the road
May our good wishes and faith in you lighten your load
With Mary Kay at your side, the blue and white in your past
But if ever a need, you know to just ask.
written by Patty McFadden