James "Jim" Copeland

Honorary Degrees

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

James “Jim” Copeland is a near lifelong resident of San Luis Obispo. Over the last 50 years, he has owned and operated a downtown family shoe business with his brother, Jim, that has  expanded into a 36-store retail chain spanning four states. The business has employed hundreds, if not thousands, of local  residents and has contributed much to the vitality of the regional economy and well-being of the area.

A highly respected business leader and active philanthropist, Mr. Copeland has dedicated much of his adult life to making the San Luis Obispo community a better place for generations to come. He served on the French Hospital Medical Center Community Board for more than  21 years, including as chair of the Board from July 2011 - June 2013.  His business expertise, community knowledge and insightful wisdom have guided the French Community Board and hospital leadership over time.  The Copeland family were the initial major donors to French Hospital when it was in dire need of philanthropic leadership. This generous support resulted in the creation of the highly acclaimed and nationally recognized Copeland, Forbes and Rossi Cardiac Care Center. Subsequently, the  family contributed generously to numerous successful French Hospital capital campaigns; and it again was the Copelands who were responsible for building the heavily used state-of-the-art Copeland Health Education Pavilion. Cal Poly’s Center for Health Research maintains an active partnership at the Copeland Health Education Pavilion to conduct research related to disease prevention and health promotion on a local and national level. The Copeland Pavilion is also used by a wide range of community organizations for training and education as a further extension of Cal Poly’s “learn by doing” philosophy.

In 2014, French Hospital honored Mr. Copeland as the Louis Tedone M.D. Humanitarian Award recipient, selected for his reputation as a respected business leader and community advocate. Mr. Copeland is also a key board member for Applied Silver (a company originating from Cal Poly) that founded germ-killing SilvaClean® technology that hospitals use against a scourge of hospital-acquired infections. Six NFL teams and Cal Poly athletics also use the technology.

In 2017, Mr. Copeland provided support through the California Community Foundation to fund the McCoy Scholars. The McCoy Scholarship was named after Elijah J. McCoy, an African-American inventor and engineer who was notable for his 57 U.S. patents, most having to do with the lubrication of steam engines. McCoy Scholarships provide a debt-free education for African-American students to study engineering at Cal Poly. To date, more than a dozen students have been supported by these scholarships.

In recognition of his professional and civic accomplishments, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo are proud to confer upon James “Jim” Copeland the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.