Payson Loses A Pioneer For Education

Doyle Coffey was a driving force in getting a community college in Payson.

Doyle Coffey was a driving force in getting a community college in Payson. |

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Doyle Coffey wasn’t a Rim Country pioneer — he didn’t come to town until 1982. But Doyle Coffey was a pioneer of another sort; he pioneered higher education in Rim Country.

Coffey died May 18 and will be honored at services at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 26 at Messinger Payson Funeral Home, 901 S. Westerly.

For 30 years he worked tirelessly through his retirement on behalf of the community he called the “most beautiful place on earth.”

Much of that work was on behalf of education. He was a former math and science teacher. In retirement, Coffey blazed the trail for a Rim Country college.

He represented Payson on the college advisory board — first to fund Eastern Arizona College satellite campuses around Gila County, then to set up Gila Community College.

In those earliest days, the professors held classes in a strip mall as Coffey went to work to get an actual campus.

Using his expanding powers of persuasion and ever-growing network of friends and associates, Coffey and others finally pressured the Arizona Legislature into approving the first million-dollar appropriation for the college in the mid 1990s. Following a second appropriation, Coffey helped break ground for what is now the Payson campus of Gila Community College.

“Doyle was a true visionary and he had the tenacity to follow through on his vision for a college campus for Payson,” writes Larry Stephenson, president of the current Gila Community College Governing Board.

“Without the unselfish efforts of Doyle Coffey, GCC students might yet be attending classes in rented storefronts,” Stephenson said.

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