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More about Julie Coates



Julie was born A. Julia Taylor in Asheville, North Carolina, on August 16, 1946, and spent most of her childhood in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  Black Mountain was a town of about 400 people in the Appalachian mountains.

While much of the rest of the United States had transitioned into the industrial age, the residents of Black Mountain were largely in the agrarian age.  So Julie learned how to can vegetables, make jam, cook squirrel, and ride a horse.  She spent a lot of time in the mountains, picking berries and learning the names of all the plants.

Her father was a school teacher.  After school he often worked in a textile mill as a chemist.  And for many years he also taught nurses chemistry.  Her father,  Y.A. Taylor,  served in World War II, getting injured twice, the first time at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  He later served in the Pacific.  After the family moved to Raleigh, he became the state director of migrant education.  He was once asked to move to New York and become a writer for the Captain Kangaroo television show, but he declined. 

Not yet famous as an evangelist preacher, Billy Graham used to visit the Taylor household to buy plants for a new house he was building in Black Mountain.

Click here for an eight minute audio story about Billy Graham, a story that says much about southern culture and living during those times, and reveals Julie to be a master story teller.

From her youth in Black Mountain,  Julie learned the arts and crafts of the agrarian era, traditional moral values, southern culture, enjoyment of small town living, and appreciation for common folk and a health skepticism of the rich.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro was an all-female institution in the early 1960s. It was also quite restrictive, with curfew at 10 am, white gloves mandatory for afternoon tea with the dean, and no off-campus travel allowed without parental consent.  Julie dropped out and soon joined the burgeoning civil rights movement.

Greensboro was a key civil rights city in the 1960s.  Julie became a civil rights leader in Greensboro.  She and other people, mostly African American, engaged in sit-ins at the local Woolworth lunch counter, which refused to serve blacks. You can visit the Woolworth lunch counter, which is now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

Julie risked her life in the civil rights movement.  She was chased at night by the Klu Klux Klan.  Her telephone was disconnected by AT&T because she had a black friend.  KKK members surrounded her house in an attempt to stone her.  During one incident she had to be carried out of the African American community by her black friends in a big garbage bag in order to avoid whites who would have hurt her.
Along with a few other leaders, mostly African American, Julie was an important figure in civil rights in Greensboro, activity that impacted the entire civil rights movement in the country. From her civil rights experience, Julie gained the uncommon ability to relate equally to people of all cultures. Much of her civil rights background is employed in her current research into learning, culture and understanding of demographics.

After attending and working at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, she graduated from North Carolina State University in Raleigh and moved to Manhattan, Kansas, in 1976.  She became the director of the local program for a large free university in Manhattan called University for Man.

She ran a program of community education classes that had 10,000 a year in a town of just 50,000 people.  She initiated a variety of local projects that were ahead of their time, including a day care center, solar energy project, and she created a folks art project that later became a statewide ongoing activity. The state’s first  folklorist was recruited by Julie and worked for her before becoming the state folklorist. 


Julie also pioneered early marketing and financial benchmarks for the field of lifelong learning.  She wrote the first publication on “Enrollment Analysis”  and also wrote “Course Trends,”  the first publication about spotting course trends. She tracked local registrations by block, one of the first to study tracking in the field.  The financial ratios she developed were later adopted nationwide as benchmarks for the lifelong learning industry.   She was elected to the Board of Directors of LERN in 1981 and served on the Board until joining the staff in 1986. 

Her first LERN conference was 1978, just four years after its founding, and has attended and presented at almost every conference since then.

Julie joined the staff of LERN in 1986, and later become Vice President for Information Services at LERN.   Along with Greg Marsello, Vice President for Organizational Development, she and Greg manage the staff at LERN.

Her work at LERN includes editing and writing for “Course Trends” newsletter; managing member services for LERN’s  6,000 members at 1,400 organizations; answering technical assistance questions from members; analyzing brochure techniques and trends; managing the master’s degree program LERN operates with the University of South Dakota; writing manuals and publications; and creating new knowledge for the field of lifelong learning.

In recent years Julie has become the lead researcher for LERN.  Her research involves:

  • Brochure design. She has been the leading expert for more than 20 years on brochure design,  reviewing and overseeing around 300 brochure critiques a year, creating the world’s largest library of brochures.
  • Demographics.  As the world’s oldest Baby Boomer, she is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the demographics of lifelong learning.  Her book Generational Learning Styles (2007) is the first book on the subject of generational learning styles.
  • Generational marketing.  Julie discovered generational marketing for the field of lifelong learning, and outlined a major transition for the field in order to serve different generations engaged in lifelong learning.
  • Generational management.  She has been active in writing and speaking about the management implications of having different generations in the workplace.
Generation Y.  Julie is a leading researcher on Generation Y, the first generation of the 21st century.

Julie has three sons:

  • Jason Coates, a Gen Xer, with her first husband.
  • Sammie Jackson, a foster child.
  • Willie Draves, a Gen Yer, with her second and current husband, William A. Draves. 
She lives with her husband in River Falls, Wisconsin, just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota; has a cabin in northern Wisconsin; and spends time with family in North Carolina in Raleigh and Black Mountain.

“Nine Shift: Work, life and education in the 21st century,”  by William A. Draves and Julie Coates, 2004.  See http://www.NineShift.com   for more.

“Generational Learning Styles,”  2007.   See http://www.GenerationalLearningStyles.com for more.
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