Engineering professor brings personal thrill to apparel

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    Engineering professor Rene Coté has successfully balanced work and play for more than 20 years.

    In addition to his job as a teacher, Coté is also a successful entrepreneur who has his own small business.

    After working for DuPont for several decades, Coté stopped traveling and began working out of his home. He always wanted to own a small business and found inspiration in a magazine ad, he said.

    “I read all those little magazine ads… I went ‘ooh computer’ and ‘ooh printing,’” Coté said.

    He said he found something that suited his technical and creative expertise — computerized embroidery.

    Coté bought the necessary equipment for $25,000 in 1990, and he still uses the same Toyota sewing machine to customize T-shirts, polos and hats, he said.

    Coté has been an engineering lab professor at the university since 2004 and designed shirts for students and faculty, he said.

    Sophomore engineering major Erika Herge came to class one day to find Coté had made her a shirt about an inside joke she and several of her classmates shared, she said.

    “Everyone loved it, saw it and asked, ‘Can I have one?’ So I asked him, can you make like 25 more of these?” Herge said.

    Coté also made TCU engineering shirts for all of the department professors.

    It may be his business, but when it comes to making T-shirts for students, he said he was not concerned with making money.

    “In that sense you could say, yeah, [making shirts for students is] kind of a hobby,” Coté said.

    Herge said she has had many conversations with Coté on a variety of topics, from his grandson to their shared family origins in the Northeast.

    “He is someone you can be comfortable with,” Herge said. “He is more like a friend than a teacher, almost.”

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