Coole, Douglas P.

1898 - 1979
Education and gospel missionary

Rev Douglas P. Coole was born on the Dec 21, 1898 in Lancaster, Kansas. He graduated from Baker University and Boston University, School of Theology, USA. His father, Dr Thomas H. Coole, was a medical missionary sent to Foochow, China. Dr Coole was the dean of Foochow Christian Union Hospital (also named Willis F. Pierce Memorial Hospital). Rev Coole and his brother, Arthur Coole, grew up in Foochow and Kutian from 1906 to 1913 when they were eight to 15 years old. Rev Coole picked up the Kutian dialect there and when he was posted to Sitiawan, Perak, and the Sibu Foochow Settlement he had no problem with spoken communication.

Rev Coole married Mamie (Polly Coole) in 1924. In 1925 they were posted to Sitiawan, Malaya. In 1929, by Hoover's request, he was designated as missionary to Sibu for a year. Yuk Ing Girls' School was then under the supervision of Mary Hoover and another small English school was under the late Mr Chong Jin Bok. From 1930 till 1941 Rev Coole served in Malaya.

In 1936, Rev Coole, in his district superintendent’s report, mentioned about the extension of the school that was attached to Pioneer Methodist Church, Shiuan Daw Dong, Jalan Kampung Koh, Sitiawan. He was in charge of the English department of the school. As a geography lesson project, he also led a group of students to Taiping. One of the male students had never seen a train or rail-track. They climbed Taiping Hill (around 3,400 ft above sea level). To many students, that was their first experience climbing a hill.

A year ago (1935), the evangelistic effect of Dr John Sung's revival meeting was still felt. Rev Coole said that God's work was not stoppable. Many people's lives were transformed. The evangelistic band met every Sunday afternoon. They sang hymns and prayed before going out for visitation and evangelism. They met again in the evening, praying together and reported to each other on their work. Rev Coole said that even the church's cooks and gardeners were touched by Dr John Sung. The Indian gardener would teach Sunday school in the Tamil church every Sunday afternoon.

Rev Coole said that Malaya would not be affected by the war in China as Malaya was a few thousand miles from China. By the “war in China” he could be talking about the Japanese invasion into China that began in 1931. He also said that even if the war spread to Malaya, Singapore as the strategic naval base was in the position to defend Malaya. He mentioned about one Japanese evangelist from the U.S. Methodist Church, Kagawa (a graduate from Princeton Theological Seminary who was also involved in labour movement). In 1923, after the Kanto earthquake, Kagawa returned to Tokyo to help in relief work and advocated a peace movement. Rev Coole was hoping that Kagawa could assist in promoting the concept of "we are all in a family".

Despite so, the Japanese army eventually invaded the Malay Peninsula. Rev Coole joined the civil defence force in Kampar. Soon after Kampar fell into the hand of the Japanese, Rev Coole moved to Singapore to join the air defence force. After Singapore fell into the hand of the Japanese, Rev and Mrs Coole were posted to India from 1941 till 1946. He became a professor in the Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur, which was set up by the India Methodist Church in 1922. During this period of time, Rev Coole was also the chaplain of the British force in India. In 1944, the U.S. headquarter wanted to send him to Foochow but because the coastal areas were controlled by the Japanese, he couldn't make it. 

The five sections of Methodist School

In November 1952, Rev Coole was designated as the principal of Methodist School, Sibu. In the report he made to the first annual conference of the Sarawak Provisional Annual Conference, he reported it was his return after 23 years. Also in that year, the Methodist Primary School celebrated the completion of the new classroom block in memory of James Hoover. The building was donated by the Methodist Church members from Nebraska and Kansas. They also praised James Hoover highly for his far-sighted contribution to development of education in Sarawak, especially in the Third Division.

In his report, Rev Coole said that Methodist School could be divided into five sections: Chinese department with junior and senior secondary sections; English department with primary, secondary and night school. There were over 1,000 students and the Chinese and English departments had their respective deans. Among the teachers, Ms Ivy Chou was leaving to further her study in Columbia University and a few other teachers were leaving at the end of the year. The contract for Miss Blanche Apple was about to expire and she planned to retire. The new teachers were Dr Ling Eng King (appointed to be the dean of English department) and Mr Eugene Teng (appointed to be the dean of English department, primary section).

Rev Coole also pointed out that the Methodist School, having both English and Chinese departments, was still on trial stage. The level of education of the school was high by national standard. However, the school should not be complacent but work harder to achieve higher standards. The aim for religious class was to convert the students to follow the Christian faith. Every week, both the English and Chinese departments had their school assemblies and the students were eager to attend. There were various types of extra curriculum activities like drama, sport, debate, public speaking and so on.

In July, 1953, the new classroom block for the Methodist Secondary School was completed (Summers Memorial Building) and the primary school and secondary schools were officially separated. In this report, Rev Coole described the opening ceremony:  “The dedication ceremony of the Methodist Secondary School new school building was held at 3:00 pm on the 25th June 1953. Bishop of Methodist Church Raymond LeRoy Archer (October 31, 1887 - July 3, 1970) and other distinguished guests were invited. The wife of the Third Division Resident A.R. Snelus officiated the opening ceremony. Witnessing the occasions were the church leaders, guests from education sector, government officials, local community leaders, the teachers and students.”

Rev Coole also mentioned that friends from Methodist churches in Nebraska donated USD100,000 while the Sarawak Government through the Education Department allocated fund for the scientific laboratory equipment. The Resident promised Ling Kai Cheng, the chairman of the Board of Directors that he would raise fund amounting to Malayan $30,000, on top of that raised by the school which was around $19,000. The school building was to commemorate Summers, the missionary who came from Nebraska and died in the Japanese concentration camp in Singapore. Mrs Esther Summers sent a telegraph to congratulate the occasion.

Rev Coole also thanked the project consultant Leighton Wiant for supervising the progress of the project. The chairman of the student union of the Chinese department, Lee Tung Kiew, donated an electric clock for the new building.

During the annual conference held in December 1953, Rev Coole presented the annual report on behalf of the Methodist School. He reported that with the completion of the new school building and the opening of the science laboratory, the Cambridge Examination Syndicate informed that with effect from 1954, the Form 5 classes were allowed to teach science subjects. The Education Department also subsidised the purchasing of equipment and upgrading of facility. The Board of Directors received donation of substantial sum from Mr Ling Chu Ming for upgrading of the library. The Kuching British Council helped to purchase English books worth around $1,000 and the British Council helped in shipping these books to Sibu. The British Council also invited and sponsored eight teachers to a teachers' conference.

The new school hall could accommodate over 800 students and was furnished with steel foldable chairs with pulpit and piano on the stage. The female hostel was on the first floor of a wooden house while the male hostel was in an atap house.

In the report, Rev Coole pointed out that the education system was changed in 1954. The Cambridge Junior Examination was replaced by the Form Three examination which was conducted by the Sarawak Government. Senior Cambridge Examination was changed to a two-year course. The dean of the English department was Dr Ling Eng King while the dean of the Chinese department was Tang Chung Sing. Methodist School was the first school in Sarawak with Senior Middle classes and by then two batches had graduated.

Rev Coole reported that Methodist Primary School English Department had classes in the morning and Eugene Teng was the dean. The Chinese department had classes in the afternoon and Luk Sung Sing was the dean.

Rev Coole said that Methodist School as a Christian school had religious classes, weekly assemblies, and the boarders had 15 minutes nightly prayer session.

The only Senior Middle class in Sarawak

In 1954, Methodist Secondary School had around 1,200 students, had a canteen, held the first school sports day and set up the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides bodies. All the income collected from the second Christmas Cantata was used for charity purpose like donations to children's homes and other charitable organisations. The sewing class for female students also started. With proper facility the husbandry class was also conducted. The primary school’s English department also began physical education classes. An American donated a projector for showing education-related films.

The dean of the Chinese department, Tang Chung Sing, obtained a scholarship and left to further his studies in Bestow University.

Dr Ling Eng King became the dean for both English and Chinese departments. The Senior Middle Section of the Chinese department was the only Senior Middle class in Sarawak for a number of years. The Form Three Examination also began this year and that was conducted by the Sarawak Education Department.

Rev Coole in his 1955 report said that Tang Chung Sing got further assistance by the British Council to extend another year's study in the U.K. Under the Colombo Plan, John Chen Hiu Fei went to the U.K. to further his study for two years and Lau Tieng Sing, a teacher from the primary school English Department, went to Australia. It was in this year that Rev Coole was assigned to lead the English service of the Masland Church, and that was the beginning of the Wesley Church. Rev Coole took three months’ sick leave because of liver disease that year.

The Methodist Primary School and Secondary School separated in July 1957. Rev Coole was officially appointed as the principal of the secondary school (Summers Memorial School) until June 1957. In 1956, Tang Chung Sing was doing his second year study in the U.K. After serving for four years, Dr Ling Eng King left to teach in Nanyang University, Singapore. Eugene Teng was the dean of the Chinese department and Miss Carol Huang was the dean of the English department.

In 1956, Rev Coole left for the U.S. for furlough and leave; there was no detailed record when he returned to Sibu. However, some records showed that he got his PhD degree in Theology from the Baker Theological College. The Sarawak Annual Conference 1964 record showed that he was appointed the treasurer, auditor and etc. There was no much detailed record.

Rev Coole spoke fluent Foochow and the couple lived comfortable life in Sibu. On top of the church ministry, they were active in communal activities. Rev. Coole set up the Sibu Rotary Club in 1964 and was the 1st President. He also set up the Boy Scout in Methodist School.

Rev Coole was also the secretary of the Trustee Board of Sarawak Methodist Church, he was the field treasurer of the Mission Board for 15 years. He also presided over the meeting of the National Women's Society Christian Service (W.S.C.S.). Mrs Coole, was good in oil painting and often drew the picture of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. She gave the paintings to different churches.

Sibu Telok Assan Doh Ang Methodist Church still kept a copy of her work.

Rev and Mrs Coole returned to the U.S. for leave in 1966, a year before his retirement. He served as curator of the Old Castle Museum at Baker University, from 1967-70. He was pastor emeritus at the Lenexa United Methodist Church, a member of the Baldwin Masonic Lodge and a former president of the Baldwin Rotary Club.

Rev Coole was the education and gospel missionary in Asia for about 40 years. He rested in the Lord on July 15, 1979, was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Baldwin. He had three sons, Paul, Thomas and Andrew and six grandchildren.



© 2016 by SCAC. This article is reproduced with permission of the Board of Christian Literature, Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, The Methodist Church in Malaysia, publisher of Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills 1 & 2. Edited and compiled by Wong Meng Lei. Translated by Christina Tiong, K. T. Chew, and Chang Yi.