Hundreds of students have applied for the Andover Service Club (ASC) Merit Scholarship throughout the past 55 years. One of the most outstanding of those applicants was Jonathan Coolidge, son of ASC member Margo Coolidge and Dr. Duncan Coolidge (retired), now Andover Selectman Coolidge.
Jonathan and his family came to East Andover when he was four years old, where he attended East Andover Village Preschool and AE/MS. At AE/MS, he played basketball and soccer, becoming co-captain of the soccer team in eighth grade. Jonathan graduated on the honor roll and received the Andover Lions Club Citizenship Award. He also became Senior Patrol Leader of the Boy Scouts Troop 489, a participant in the Andover Fourth of July parade, and various service projects in the Andover community.
While attending Proctor Academy, Jonathan played football, lacrosse, and basketball, becoming co-captain of the basketball team in his senior year. He graduated from Proctor as a member of the National Honor Society.
The choice to pursue a career in the medical profession took Jonathan to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he attended the College of the Holy Cross, earning a degree in biology. Then, he went on to Emory University in Atlanta to obtain a masters degree in epidemiology, followed by two years at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention in Adult and Community Health.
While at CDC, he realized he wanted more personal contact, so Jonathan applied, and was accepted, to Albany Medical College (AMC). Even as a second year med student, he could see how much physicians give back to the community they serve.
In 2006, his third year at AMC, Jonathan applied for an ASC Merit Scholarship and was awarded $1,000 in scholarship money for his outstanding educational and service history. He received high praise and outstanding recommendations from the Professor of Emergency Medicine at AMC; the Assistant Director of the Chemical Skills Program at AMC; and a close family friend.
Jonathan’s mother, Margo, said she and Duncan never encouraged their son to enter the medical field because, coming from a medical background themselves, they knew the amount of stress and time involved in the pursuit of a medical profession. She said, however, that they would always support him in whatever field he decided to pursue. Needless to say, they are extremely proud of all of his accomplishments.
When I asked Jonathan to tell me how he feels about the years of his life in Andover, this was his reply: “I’ve lived up and down the east coast now, living for years at a time in New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, and Georgia – but my time in Andover will always be special to me. This small town helped shape and mold me, forming the core of who I am today. Growing up amidst the woods and fields of my back yard, and my neighbor’s yard, and the neighbor’s yard next to that, taught me to be both self-sufficient and determined.
“But Andover taught you how to care as well. How could you not, growing up in a town that reaches out to their neighbors when they are down; donating clothing and cash after the tragedy of a fire, doing fundraisers through school, or just unasked-for help from the neighbor to lift something heavy out of your truck. Perhaps it was some of this altruism and caring attitude that helped lead me to a career in medicine.
“Despite having lived outside of Andover for many years, and despite being states away, Andover reached out to me as well, to help me when I needed it most, through the work of the Andover Service Club. I had left a low-rent apartment shared with three others in Atlanta and had left a full-time job to make a return as a full-time student at Albany Medical College. As a career path, it was certainly the right choice for me.
“But the transition from full-time employee to full-time student was difficult. Not only did I have to remember how to focus and study again, but I also suddenly found my meager savings disappearing into textbooks, student loans, and the inevitable Ramen noodle soup stash. It was here that my hometown remembered me, awarding me a scholarship through the women of the Andover Service Club. It was as if people that I barely knew, who owed me nothing, were saying ‘Keep going. We believe in you. We can do it.’
“They say the first year of medical school is the hardest. I certainly found it so. But having the support and caring of what felt like a whole small town helped to carry me through. I have since completed medical school and residency and now work in a small community ER where I try to pay forward some of the same caring and respect that was shown me … trying to help the people of my community when they most need it, just as the people of the town of Andover helped me.”
Jonathan and his wife are busy with renovations on their home while waiting for the arrival of their first child. He now resides and is employed as a physician in the greater Buffalo area.