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Ferris State Michigan College of Optometry alumna Dr. Emily Coles makes a well-rounded impact as a local business owner and around the Big Rapids community

The life and career of 2008 Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry alumna Dr. Emily Coles prove that professional success and exemplary community service can be accomplished within miles, even blocks from where they were raised.

“All the skills I have acquired, both professionally and those that help me in roles outside the office, came because of my education. I graduated from Big Rapids High School in 2000 and continued a family tradition by heading to Michigan Tech, where I graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology,” said Coles, whose father is Dr. Fred Guenther, a retired obstetrician and currently the mayor of Big Rapids. “I did apply to another school of optometry beyond MCO, but I very much wanted to come back home for this learning. I was so pleased to be accepted.”

Coles began her professional practice with Optometric Associates and, in 2016, became the business owner of what is now Big Rapids Family Eyecare. If the idea of practicing her profession anyplace else but home crossed her mind, the thought did not persist.

“It took some maturation on my part to understand that Big Rapids is a great place to raise a family, which my husband Jon and I have been so thankful for,” Coles said. “Being a small business owner allows me to support the community by caring for individuals and contributing my time and effort to make this a better place to live and work. I know just about everyone who walks in the door of my business, and it has been so fun to have those kinds of relationships. ‘Fun’ may sound a bit simplistic, but I do not have a better word to describe the feeling and attitude of my practice. It makes giving extra on the job and as a volunteer easy to do.”

Coles added, “At Big Rapids Family Eyecare, the last sentence in our mission statement is ‘We are here to help.’ Again, it is as straightforward as it sounds, helping is what we do, and it is a great feeling to apply my skill set for the good of my clients and as a volunteer and community contributor.”

Coles’ commitment to volunteerism benefit Ferris State University and the Michigan College of Optometry, as she is President of the Ferris Alumni Association Board of Directors and a member of the MCO Alumni Board.

“Being on the alumni board has allowed me to give back by helping others become more engaged and making new connections,” Coles said. “Developing those initial ‘touch points’ can be a great benefit. Still, when I give my time to a group or cause, I learn much more from that service than what it might require of myself and my time. Seeing peers I have studied with, whether through MCO Alumni Board meetings or professional conferences, is always a joy. We can catch up on each other’s practices and discuss where the profession has taken us. That’s very valuable and enjoyable.”

Her efforts have not been only offered to her alma mater, as Coles is president of the Big Rapids Middle School Parent-Teacher Organization and heads up the BRPS Sports Boosters.

“I would be giving back, even if I were not a business owner,” Emily said. “I do this because I want my three sons to see what volunteerism can do. It is said to be a dying art, to give of your time for a cause, and I have studied this when time allows. Regardless of the theory about why people are not as giving, I believe if everyone found something that stirs their passion, offering support doesn’t even feel like you have paid some cost, and the fun you find is just one of the rewards for that effort.”

Emily has seen recognition and reward for this positive approach to work and service, with honors that include:

  • A Ferris State University Pacesetter Award in 2015
  • 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year from the Big Rapids Downtown Business Association
  • 2018 Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year
  • 2018 Pride of the Neighborhood Award

“Being active in a place that has given me everything is, again, ‘fun,’” Coles said. “I have learned so much from being connected to many different organizations and to have worked with a diverse group of wonderful people. I seek to have a positive impact with each of my efforts and believe what I learn from this has greater rewards than my efforts require.”

Coles uses Big Rapids Family Eyecare to offer her knowledge to current Ferris students, as Chelsea Jepsen of Three Rivers and Big Rapids native Alissa Ruggles work as technicians.

“They are amazing employees. I love showing them what my world is about,” Coles said. “I hope, in some way, this will be a real help to them in their future.”

A personal focus on physical fitness also serves as an opportunity to contribute, as Emily is co-owner of the Big Rapids CrossFit gym in Big Rapids Township, leading that operation along with Jeff and Jenny Mossel. This business serves as another opportunity to provide work experience to Ferris students.

“Logan Workman and Josie Prince are among our coaches, with the motivation they offer being wonderful for all of us who train with them,” Coles said. “It is clear to us who are not as young as these two that everyone benefits from the energy they bring to every workout and the operation as a whole.”

The Coles, whose homestead was the former Ferris President’s residence, also have shown their commitment to the community and the university by establishing the Coles Family Endowed Scholarship. It is structured to benefit a full-time undergraduate student taking Pre-Optometry, Pre-Medicine or Sports Management classes, with a preference given to students from Big Rapids.

“I am so thankful to be living in this small town, which is doing so many big things,” Emily said. “We are fortunate to have Ferris State University as a partner, and Jon and I felt this is just one way we can give back to our community.”


Local High School Schedule & Scores

CSAA Baseball

MONDAY - 5/13

Reed City 0 @ Big Rapids 3

Reed City 3 @ Big Rapids 16 (5inn)

Lakeview 4 @ C Montcalm 14 (6inn)

Lakeview 4 @ C Montcalm 9

Tri County 5 @ Fremont 1

Tri County 8 @ Fremont 5 (6inn)

TUESDAY - 5/14

Chippewa Hills 5 @ Grant 4

Chippewa Hills 1 @ Grant 2

C Montcalm 7 @ Kent City 6

C Montcalm 12 @ Kent City 2

Big Rapids 13 @ Lakeview 1

Big Rapids 14 @ Lakeview 1 (5inn)

White Cloud 1 @ Morley Stanwood 2

White Cloud 11 @ Morley Stanwood 2

Tri County 1 @ Newaygo 3

Tri County 3 @ Newaygo 4


C Montcalm 4 @ Carson City 5

C Montcalm 24 @ Carson City 8 (5inn)

Manistee 3 @ Reed City 4 (6inn)

Manistee 12 @ Reed City 12 (5inn)

FRIDAY - 5/17

Big Rapids 0 @ Byron Center 4

Big Rapids 1 @ Byron Center 3

Kent City 6 @ E Jordan 3

Mancelona 3 @ Kent City 0

Lakeview 3 @ Grant 8

Lakeview 1 @ Grant 13 (5inn)

Ravenna 8 @ Newaygo 15

Ravenna 1 @ Newaygo 2

Morley Stanwood 2 @ Chip Hills 10

Morley Stanwood 2 @ Chip Hills 10

Tri County 6 @ White Cloud 8

Tri County 8 @ White Cloud 3


Inland Lakes 4 @ Big Rapids 7

Big Rapids 1 @ Beal City 11

Fremont 4 @ White Cloud 1

Fremont 5 @ Newaygo 10 (6inn)

Hesperia 2 @ Grant 12 (6inn)

Grant 2 @ Newaygo 1

Clare 22 @ Reed City 2 (4inn)

Ludington 13 @ Reed City 1


CSAA Softball

MONDAY - 5/13

Reed City 8 @ Big Rapids 10

Reed City 0 @ Big Rapids 9

Lakeview 0 @ C Montcalm 10 (5inn)

Lakeview 1 @ C Montcalm 1 (6inn)

TUESDAY - 5/14

Chip Hills 9 @ Grant 14

Chip Hills 9 @ Grant 10

C Montcalm 7 @ Kent City 6

C Montcalm 12 @ Kent City 2

Big Rapids 14 @ Lakeview 1 (6inn)

Big Rapids 16 @ Lakeview 0 (5inn)


C Montcalm 0 @ Sacred Heart 15 (5inn)

C Montcalm 1 @ Sacred Heart 8


Cadillac 0 @ Reed City 19 (3inn)

Cadillac 0 @ Reed City 11 (5inn)

FRIDAY - 5/17

Lakeview 0 @ N Branch 10 (6inn)


Big Rapids 2 @ Dakota 12

Big Rapids 4 @ Oakridge 5

Big Rapids 9 @ Canton 4

Grant 2 @ Newaygo 1

Holton 1 @ Reed City 1

Ludington 0 @ Reed City 7

SUNDAY - 5/19

Big Rapids 14 @ Milan 2

CSAA Baseball Standings

1) Big Rapids: 17-1 | +172 -42 (+130)

2) Chippewa Hills: 11-5 | +91 -57 (+34)

3) Grant: 12-6 | 107 -57 (+50)

4) Newaygo: 12-6 | +104 -65 (+39)

5) Central Montcalm: 10-6 | +109 -71 (+38)

6) Reed City: 11-7 | +125 -81 (+44)

7) White Cloud: 8-10 | +79 -117 (-38)

8) Morley Stanwood: 6-12 | +57 -117 (-60)

9) Kent City: 5-13 | +86 -144 (-58)

10) Tri County: 4-14 | +89 -147 (-58)

11) Lakeview: 0-16 | +60 -181 (-121)

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