On March 24, Hillels of Georgia will honor Michael Coles, the co-founder of Great American Cookie Company, former CEO of Caribou Coffee and namesake of Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business. The event is dubbed “Hillels of Georgia Presents A Salute to Michael Coles: The Impact of One Tough Cookie.”
For the second year in a row, the event will be held at City Springs and include a variety of upbeat live entertainment highlighting the impact of Coles’ life as a business expert, serial entrepreneur, education advocate and transformational leader. He is also a published author and well-known public speaker, but his tireless advocacy for Hillel will take center stage.
“I have been fortunate in my life to have had many jobs, and this is by far the most important job I have ever had,” Coles said. “In my six years as president of Hillels of Georgia, with the help of our incredible board, we have been able to step up our role across the state to fight anti-Semitism and offer college students a safe haven.”
When Hillels of Georgia announced that it would devote this year’s Billi and Bernie Marcus Visionary Award to Coles, it seemed like the obvious choice. Hillels of Georgia’s mission is to empower Jewish students on campus. Under his leadership, Coles has worked tirelessly to enable Hillels of Georgia to create safe spaces and meaningful experiences for college students across the state.
Under Coles’ six-year presidency, Hillels of Georgia increased programming and presence on campuses around the state. And amid a rise of anti-Semitism and discrimination worldwide, he was instrumental in helping the organization grow with the addition of three full-time Israel Fellows to its professional staff to assist in educating and supporting students confronted with anti-Israel sentiment and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Coles played a key factor in strengthening the organization and ensuring that Hillel served as a safe space for students to meet, learn, be involved with Israel, and stay connected.
“We are grateful for Michael Coles’ support, which has been instrumental at every stage of our development,” said Bob Wilensky, president of Hillels of Georgia. “Our upcoming event is a celebration of the organization’s growth since 2004, and we look forward to a continued expansion in programming, staffing and support for all students on all campuses in the state of Georgia.”
Today, Hillels of Georgia is active on 24 campuses serving 5,000 students across the state. Through programming and mentorship, the organization works to enrich the lives of the Jewish students and significantly increase the number of individuals who have meaningful Jewish experiences on campus.
Coles’ commitment to mentorship and higher education is seen in the roles he’s played on the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents and the Kennesaw State University Foundation board. He is actively involved in an array of organizations within the Jewish community, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, The Temple, American Jewish Committee and Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta.
Coles and wife Donna live between Atlanta and Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Tickets for “Hillels of Georgia Presents A Salute to Michael Coles: The Impact of One Tough Cookie” start at $150; the event is free to student members of the organization. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available at http://hillelsofgeorgia.org/salute/. All contributions go to programming for the campuses served by Hillels of Georgia.