Wallace Otto Coe.

Photo courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives.

Coe, Wallace Otto (1923–2008)

By James (Jim) Arthur Greene, and Joyce Ann (Keslake) Greene

×

James (Jim) Arthur Greene graduated from Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University) in 1967 with a degree in Accounting. He served the church in various administrative capacities, including treasurer of the East Indonesia Union, vice president of finance at Loma Linda University, Columbia Union College, and the Rocky Mountain Conference, and as executive secretary of the New Jersey Conference. Greene retired in 2014 after over 48 years of service. Jim and co-author Joyce Ann Keslake Greene were married in 1964, a union that was blessed with three children.

Joyce Ann (Keslake) Greene was born in Massachusetts but grew up in Orlando, Florida. After a period of twenty years in which she married co-author Jim, mothered their three children, and studied at four different colleges, she graduated with honors from Loma Linda University – La Sierra Campus in 1982 with a B.S. degree in Accounting. Her professional career included service as director of payroll at Loma Linda University and as associate treasurer of the New Jersey Conference.

First Published: January 29, 2020

Wallace O. Coe served the church for more than four decades as pastor, departmental director, conference president, union president, and General Conference vice president. In each capacity, he made evangelism the major emphasis of his ministry.

Wallace Otto Coe was born May 31, 1923, in Franklinville, New York. He was the first of three children born to Dora (1903-1988) and Floyd Coe (?-1928). As a child, he grew up in Rochester, New York. His father passed away when he was about five and his mother subsequently married Carl Bennett (1899-1987). Wallace Coe was baptized at the age of ten along with his mother. He attended Atlantic Union College (AUC) in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, and it was there that he married Hazel Warrell (1921-2017) on May 20, 1945. Their marriage would be blessed with two children: Michael Coe and Janet Coe Page.1

After graduation from AUC in 1946, 2 Coe began his pastoral ministry in the McMinnville, Tennessee, church in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.3 After seven years as a pastor in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference (1946-1953),4 he was called to the Alabama-Mississippi (now Gulf States) Conference to pastor and direct the lay activities and Sabbath School departments between 1953 and 1955.5 In 1955, he moved to the Carolina Conference where he held the same positions until 19626 when he became president of the Alabama-Mississippi Conference.7 Coe subsequently served as president of the Florida Conference from 1965 to 1973,8 president of the Northern Union Conference from 1973 to 1975,9 president of the Central (now Mid-America) Union Conference from 1975 to 1978,10 and president of the Columbia Union Conference from 1978 to 1985.11 In 1985 he was elected a general vice-president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist, a position he held until 1988.12

Coe is most remembered for his strong emphasis on evangelism. Even before his ordination in 1950, he had been featured several times in the Southern Tidings for his soul winning success.13 During his eight-year tenure as president of the Florida Conference, the membership increased by 50%.14

A report on his presentation at a Kansas Conference workers’ meeting in 1975 testified to his effectiveness as a promoter of evangelism: “Elder W. O. Coe, newly elected Central Union president gave the opening address and really set the stage for an enthusiastic Workers’ Meeting. We believe that with Elder Coe’s strong emphasis on evangelism and his positive approach to a finished work, we are going to see things move forward in a strong way with many added to the church.”15

In a Central Union Reaper editorial in 1975, Coe wrote, “All of our conferences are making plans for a stepped-up program of soul winning. The urgency of the hour demands big plans, and God will bless as we enlarge our vision, execute large plans, and endeavor with His help to reach the eleven million people living in this great territory.”16 In a tribute to Coe in the Southern Tidings, Don Schneider, president of the North American Division wrote, “He was single-minded about growing God’s Church. He talked evangelism constantly.”17

One of Coe’s talents, according to his daughter, Janet Coe Page, was his ability to work with people who many would consider “troublemakers” in his churches and the organizations he led: “Dad would pay special attention to the cranky, irritable, griping ones. He’d search for the good things in each one and affirm each person for their strengths. Dad would win over the ‘troublemakers,’ and they would do almost anything for him.”18

Coe was also noted for being a visionary leader. Under his leadership, new office buildings were constructed for the Central Union Conference (1977)19 and the Columbia Union Conference (1981).20 He also was involved in establishing Adventist Sunbelt Health Systems while president of the Florida Conference and Adventist HealthCare/Eastern and Middle America, along with development of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital while serving as president of the Columbia Union.

While serving as a general vice president of the General Conference, he chaired the Board of Loma Linda University and Loma Linda University Medical Center.21 During his leadership as chair of the University and Medical Center Boards, the Proton Beam Accelerator was approved, the first in the nation to be used specifically for the treatment of cancer by a hospital-based cancer treatment program.22 Coe also served as vice-chair of Adventist World Radio Board (AWR) 23 during the construction of the AWR Guam Radio Station.24

Wallace O. Coe retired January 1, 1989, after almost forty-three years of service to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.25 Upon retirement, he moved to Florida where he served for eight years as vice president of spiritual ministries for Adventist Health System. He passed to his rest on September 17, 2008, in Deltona, Florida.26

Sources

Anderson, V. G. “Soul-Winning Teamwork.” Southern Tidings, September 21, 1949.

“Coe is New Northern Union President.” Northern Union Outlook, September 14, 1973.

Coe, W. O. “Construction Begins on New Office.” Central Union Reaper, September 9, 1976.

Coe, W. O. “Future Bright for Evangelism.” Central Union Reaper, November 25, 1975.

Coe, W. O. “President’s Report.” Columbia Union Visitor, April 16, 1981.

“Columbia Union Conference Welcomes New President.” Columbia Union Visitor, June 1, 1978.

Dronen, George. “Kansas Workers’ Meeting at Broken Arrow Ranch.” Central Union Reaper, September 16, 1975.

Evans, I. M. “A Hearty Welcome.” Southern Tidings, January 28, 1953.

“Georgia Cumberland News Notes.” Southern Tidings, July 31, 1946.

Hagen, E. E. “Coe Elected President Central Union Conference.” Central Union Reaper, August 12, 1975.

Lauda, C. H. “Introducing W. O. Coe and His Family.” Southern Tidings, October 26, 1955.

Page, Janet. “Troublemakers.” The Journal for Ministry Spouses, Third Quarter 2014.

Page, Shenalyn. “29CN: Wallace Coe, retired G.C. vice president dies.” Adventist Review archives, October 20, 2008. Accessed May 13, 2019, https://www.adventistreview.org/archive-2167.

Page, Shenalyn. “Wallace O. Coe, 1923-2008.” Southern Tidings, November 2008.

Rees, Don R. “Personnel Changes.” Southern Tidings, November 21, 1962.

“Seventh business meeting,” 54th General Conference Session, ARH, July 3, 1985.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1986-1988.

“W. O. Coe takes vice presidential post at GC.” Columbia Union Visitor, August 1, 1985.

Notes

  1. Janet Coe Page, interview with authors, March 2019.

  2. Harry W. Taylor, “Commencement at Atlantic Union College,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, June 14, 1946, 1, 8.

  3. “Georgia Cumberland News Notes,” Southern Tidings, July 31, 1946, 5.

  4. I. M. Evans, “A Hearty Welcome,’ Southern Tidings, January 28, 1953, 5.

  5. C. H. Lauda, “Introducing W. O. Coe and His Family,” Southern Tidings, October 26, 1955, 4, 6.

  6. Don R. Rees, “Personnel Changes,” Southern Tidings, November 21, 1962, 16.

  7. “People in Transition–Florida,” Southern Tidings, December 24, 1965, 17.

  8. “Coe is New Northern Union President,” Northern Union Outlook, September 14, 1973, 1.

  9. E. E. Hagen, “Coe Elected President Central Union Conference,” Central Union Reaper, August 12, 1975, 16.

  10. “Columbia Union Conference Welcomes New President,” Columbia Union Visitor, June 1, 1978, 16A.

  11. “W. O. Coe takes vice presidential post at GC,” Columbia Union Visitor, August 1, 1985, 3.

  12. “Seventh business meeting,” 54th General Conference Session, ARH, July 3, 1985, 10.

  13. V. G. Anderson, “Soul-Winning Teamwork,” Southern Tidings, September 21, 1949, 16.

  14. Hagen, “Coe Elected President.”

  15. George Dronen, “Kansas Workers’ Meeting at Broken Arrow Ranch,” Central Union Reaper, September 16, 1975, 6.

  16. W. O. Coe, “Future Bright for Evangelism,” Central Union Reaper, November 25, 1975, 2.

  17. Shenalyn Page, “Wallace O. Coe, 1923-2008,” Southern Tidings, November 2008, 16.

  18. Janet Page, “Troublemakers,” The Journal for Ministry Spouses, Third Quarter 2014, 3.

  19. W. O. Coe, “Construction Begins on New Office,” Central Union Reaper, September 9, 1976, 2.

  20. W. O. Coe, “President’s Report,” Columbia Union Visitor, April 16, 1981, 12C.

  21. “Loma Linda University,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1986-1988).

  22. Carlos Medley, “LLUMC Makes Breakthrough in Cancer Control,” ARH, July 9, 1987, 6.

  23. “Adventist World Radio Board,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1986-1988).

  24. Janet Coe Page interview; “AWR-Asia Says, ‘Rain, rain go away,’” ARH, July 10, 1986, 6.

  25. General Conference Committee Minutes, November 10, 1988, Action No. 88-496, 12.

  26. Shenalyn Page, “29CN: Wallace Coe, Retired G.C. Vice President Dies,” Adventist Review archives, October 20, 2008, accessed May 13, 2019, https://www.adventistreview.org/archive-2167.

×

Greene, James (Jim) Arthur, Joyce Ann (Keslake) Greene. "Coe, Wallace Otto (1923–2008)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed February 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=895C.

Greene, James (Jim) Arthur, Joyce Ann (Keslake) Greene. "Coe, Wallace Otto (1923–2008)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=895C.

Greene, James (Jim) Arthur, Joyce Ann (Keslake) Greene (2020, January 29). Coe, Wallace Otto (1923–2008). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=895C.