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Everyone Has a Story: Faith and Family Defines Him

Cole Stanton (Class of 2023)

He stands 6’4” tall with a traditional football player’s build as he walks into the classroom, but everyone knows that Cole Stanton is what you call a “gentle giant.” According to Cole, his story is nothing extraordinary, but what lies beneath the surface of this young man is a charismatic personality.  

Cole grew up in Arkansas, not far from the Oklahoma boarder.  He is the middle of three children, with an older and younger brother.  His dad worked in sports journalism before coming the general manager and Vice President of a fishing lure production company, and his mom worked at the local school Cole attended in his early years. The story of Cole is like that of many other young men and women who grow up in a traditional home, go off to college, and start a career. But Cole’s story has a bit of inspiration.

An outdoorsy guy, Cole enjoys sports and fishing and is bound closely by his deeply rooted Baptist faith.  He began attending a public school (where his mother worked) until his little brother arrived. Then he and his older brother began attending a private Catholic school until high school. Cole started to be bullied because he “hadn’t grown into his body.”  He took the bullying and didn’t give up. “I was awkward and I couldn’t help that I was bigger—I was just going through growing pains,” he chuckled. Despite the bullying, he never lost his direction or his faith. Cole learned all the Catholic beliefs and attended mass with the rest of his class, but he maintained his Baptist faith. At a young age he was exposed to two different faiths, and perhaps that is what has formed him into the man he is today. 

While attending Northside High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where his is athletic passions of basketball and football met a breaking point, and he had to decide one over the other. He chose football.

Cole also took a journalism class in school.  “I remember my dad asking me one day what I planned to do when I graduated college and at the time, I really had no idea, so he suggested journalism. This is why I took the class to see if I wanted to pursue journalism as a career,” he recalled.

During junior high school he met his future wife, Cortney, who was in his journalism class. Cortney was a year behind him in school; they became good friends and eventually began dating during high school. She attended a college near Cole, so they were able to continue seeing each other.  Cole knew that he was going to marry his first true love. 

Football was a huge part of his life growing up, and he was determined to play at the college level. Cole did play when he began attending Hendrix College, a private, Methodist-faith institution.  While in college, Cole began attending One Church, a Southern Baptist church near campus. He really began to deepen the person he was on the inside and the person he aspired to be on the outside.

Pro football wasn’t in Cole’s future, but something else was. Majoring in biology at Hendrix College, he knew he would do something in the medical field. But it wasn’t until he began working in a clinic near college (and then back home) that optometry became his destiny. 

Working hard through college, his faith was the guiding beacon that led the way. And for Cole it was the foundation of who he is—and will be—when he becomes a doctor. 

Cole’s smile, humor, and overall good nature makes him a natural magnet for people to like him. During his senior year in college, he got engaged to Cortney. Cole made a splash in getting involved during his first year of optometry school where he played intramural sports, served as an ambassador, and made friends throughout the college.  As a true extrovert, it is his personality, not his size that makes him stand out.

He had to work hard his first year of optometry school, and there was a learning curve. But Cole never gave up.  He stayed focused and completed his first year of optometry school strong, despite finishing online due to COVID-19. 

COVID-19 also changed May 29, 2020—a day that was supposed to gather more than 200 people to watch Cole and Cortney get married.  Instead, the guest list was cut to 50, a tropical vacation was cancelled, and the couple found themselves in Oklahoma for a honeymoon.

Instead of sandy beaches, they spent time together in a romantic, quaint cabin and went fishing. “It was a good time,” he laughed as he told the story. He and Cortney moved into an apartment in St. Louis soon after the honeymoon, as Cole started working at Cherry Hill Optometry in Wildwood.  His wife will begin teaching at an elementary school in Normandy in August. 

Cole’s goals are to follow in the footsteps of faith and his grandfathers who were both pilots during the Korean and Vietnam wars respectively. He wants to join the Air Force through the military scholarships offered to optometry students.  Jokingly, he said, “I have to lose a few more pounds, which I am doing to be eligible for consideration.”

Faith, family, and passion are driving forces to keep him grounded (for now) until he graduates and hopefully joins the Air Force as an optometrist.  Cole’s energy and charisma brings a positive energy to the College of Optometry, and this is his story—so far.

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