Happy Days  In Blue Valley 1

The Compassionate Mr. and Mrs. “C”

The endearing and memorable TV show from the 1970s and 80s coined the phrase “Happy Days,” but it doesn’t hold a candle to the philanthropic and kind-hearted Mr. and Mrs. “C” of modern Johnson County. Patrick and Kathleen Cocherl (Pat and Kathy) are the quintessential mom and pop of altruism in our own community.

For the last eight years, the Cocherl family has been giving scholarships (Cocherl Family Foundation Scholarships) to deserving Blue Valley students who wish to continue their education in a post-secondary setting. In 2015, 19 students from a variety of Blue Valley schools were each awarded scholarships to cover tuition, books and fees at the school of their choice – totaling $97,000. That’s an average of a little more than $5,000 per student. That generous amount allows families breathing room and opportunities they otherwise might not have. The Cocherl gift to each student is also inclusive of four years of scholarship if the student upholds a satisfactory standing in school, as well as the gift of advice from Mr. “C” on how to navigate college.

Pat Cocherl has three rules for his scholarship recipients.

  1. Go to class.
  2. Advocate for yourself.
  3. Enjoy yourself.

Mr. “C” tells each and every student his three rules, he tells them that perfection is not expected but participation is expected, he tells them that he is personally available to them if they have questions or problems, and he tells them that they must communicate – with him and with their parents. Pat’s requirements for communication are just as common-sense oriented as his rules. Students are expected to email him at least once a semester and tell him how they are doing. He doesn’t want to hear about their grades, he wants to know if they are making friends, going to class, talking to teachers, making an effort.

Elle McAlister is returning to K-State in the fall as a sophomore, and she is a “perfect example” of a scholarship recipient, according to Pat. Elle received her initial scholarship in 2014, and in 2015 she was invited to the Cocherl home to talk to the new class of nineteen recipients as they attended a picnic with their parents. The reason Mr. “C” asked Elle to come and speak to the group was that she understood the process of accepting a gift and making it work for her. She is a general business major, but not without some typical struggles her first year. She persevered in her studies, made the effort, and communicated with Mr. “C” and is thrilled to be well on her way to a four-year degree.

Not all young people are interested in a four-year traditional college trajectory, and that is completely understandable to the Cocherl family. They are perfectly willing to fund non-traditional paths, if the student can convey their desire for a certain kind of program. Adam Borker was able to do just that, and he is one of this year’s class who is receiving a scholarship. He is headed to Pittsburg State to study wood technology with his friend and roommate, Adam Pistorious, also a recipient. These two young men were enthusiastic and grateful to have such a promising future in front of them, thanks to the Cocherl family.

Reading this article will probably make Mr. “C” shake his head and turn a couple of shades of red. Pat and Kathy have not sought out publicity for their magnanimous deeds. In fact, they didn’t even want anyone to know about it except for the students who apply. But, with a little nudging they have agreed to be somewhat exposed. In exchange for going public, they want us to know a few things about how this scholarship experience works. First, Blue Valley guidance counselors are aware of the scholarships and encourage students to apply. Second, this is not a need-based gift. It is determined by essays that the students write… themselves. (Mr. “C” can spot a parent-written essay in a heartbeat!) And, third, the student must be able to articulate what it is that they want to do. The Cocherls want to know what challenges a young person, what does he or she want to be, what drives him or her?

One student at a time, the Cocherl family is helping to ensure a bright future for our young people and our community. Without reservation, they are contributing their time and treasure so that motivated individuals can pursue their dreams and achieve their goals.