Monday, January 16, 2012

Dr Ron Coleman Making a Difference - Important Lessons

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights he fought so hard to establish, I reflected back on my own life and the important contribution and education of one of my former professors at the University of Utah, Dr. Ronald Coleman.  He opened my mind to a whole new facet of life and was there at a crossroad of my life that really made a difference for me. 

It was my sophomore year at the U and I had just returned from a 10 week internship from one of the big eight accounting firms and had hoped to get into the U's Accounting program.  Unfortunately, while I had done well in my accounting classes, I hadn't done that great in some general education classes. I found myself at a decision point of either going back and retaking a quarter worth of classes, or changing my major and moving forward.  While I had little doubt in my ability to pursue the accounting degree I was not sure what I should do.  I liked history, and so I enrolled in a class on Civil War Reconstruction to test the waters.  The class was taught by Dr. Ronald Coleman and it was clear that he had some great insights to the subject and I found his lectures really interesting.  However in taking his first exam, I didn't do well.  It would have been easy to have floundered in the class, but for the first and really only time in my academic pursuit at the University level, he asked to meet with me.  While his counsel to me in his class wasn't earth shattering, the fact he cared and the desire he had for me to succeed made a deep impression and I felt a need to not let him down.  I think I ended up with a B+ or A- in his class, but eventually changed my major to History.  

 I ended up taking another class as well from Dr. Coleman, this one on African American History.  While I had prided myself on knowing American History, I came to the harsh reality that I really had missed a significant component of it, and more importantly, the need to be aware of the rights of everyone.  Dr. Coleman taught us that you can't challenge someones faith and the origin of their faith isn't something that you can prove or challenge.  I remember him reciting a Negro Spiritual demanding that our eyes be closed and threatening that if we opened our eyes in the process, he would fail us. As Dr. Coleman recited the spiritual, I visualized exactly what he spoke and it gave me an appreciation that we find truth in everyone's faith.  I am also proud to say that years later, as a city council member, I sponsored the effort for the honorary naming of 200 East to Rosa Parks Blvd.

It was only fitting that when it came time to graduate with my Bachelor of Arts in History, I recieved my diploma from a new Academic Vice President for the University, Dr. Ronald Coleman.  Our paths have crossed a few times since, but I'm truly grateful he cared enough to make a difference in my life.  By the way, I spent the first 20 years of my career, working in accounting and finance, leaving my first employer as their Assistant Controller and later with my current employer as a Financial Analyst, before changing careers.  History taught me to think of things in a long range perspective and how to write in a more analytical way.  I probably use those skills daily.  Thanks Dr. Coleman for making a difference.

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