There are some aspects of Gannon University that are only truly appreciated by students, faculty and staff – John Coleman is one of those aspects.
Coleman, security corporal community relations coordinator for Campus Police and Safety, is a well-recognized face among all members of the Gannon community.
Coleman, who has been with Gannon for 10 years, began his career not in security but with Nabisco in sales and marketing.
He did security work part time and “never thought that it would flip-flop.”
With a summer position working in Homeland Security, Coleman said he “sort of fell in love with it, and it grew from there.”
All in all, Coleman has been in the security line of work for more than 20 years and hopes that it shows.
While many students, from freshmen to upperclassmen, quickly grow to know and love Coleman for his welcome smile and works of encouragement, Coleman insists that interacting with the students is his favorite part of his job at Gannon.
Elayna Oaks, a junior nursing major, said she has no idea how Coleman manages to get to know so many students.
“I feel like he honestly knows everyone’s names and at least one thing about them – whether it be their job, major or an extracurricular activity,” she said.
“He is honestly just a genuine person who obviously really cares about the students here.”
Coleman said that he tells people that every August he adopts 3,700 students.
He said that the students at Gannon are “bright, brilliant and intelligent” – and they are all very humble about their achievements and levels of involvement.
“If I didn’t get to know students by talking to them, I would never know about half of the things that they are involved with or how extremely talented they are – I don’t think people realize just how talented the people are at Gannon,” Coleman said.
Antonette Claar, a junior nursing major, said she remembers Coleman from her first week at Gannon.
“He must have recognized that I was a freshman because he came up to me, asked me how I was doing and if I needed anything,” she said.
“It wasn’t anything big, but it made me feel more comfortable and welcome at Gannon, and ever since then, he has been around to cheer me up if I am in a bad mood over a test or a heavy workload.”
As much as Coleman loves working at Gannon, he said that the one aspect of his job that he doesn’t like is that he can’t work seven days a week .
“If I could, I would, but I don’t know if they’d pay me for that,” he said.
He also said that he’d like to see more growth at Gannon.
“Although we, as a community, are growing gradually, I’d like to see more students,” he said. “Gannon is a great place to be. I just wish that more people recognized that.”
Coleman said that he has thought extensively on the subject, and he would like to find a way to improve diversity on Gannon’s campus as well.
Not just an employee, Coleman is also a student at Gannon.
He said that he has been taking classes part time for a while, and he is double majoring in criminal justice and liberal studies.
Beginning his college career at Edinboro University and later moving to Mercyhurst University, Coleman said he is glad he can finish his degree at Gannon.
He said that he hopes to walk in December though he will have enough credits to graduate this summer.
Coleman also said that he hopes to do something in student development after he graduates.
“I enjoy working with students – it’s truly the best part of my job, and not everyone gets the opportunity to grow close with the general population of the campus,” he said.
Although he will pursue a different position, Coleman plans to stay at Gannon.
“It’s constantly growing, evolving, and I want to be a part of that – it’s already grown so much since I arrived here ten years ago, so I can only imagine the direction that the future of the university will take,” he said.
Truly demonstrating his commitment to Gannon, Coleman said, “I gave Gannon three years. I’ve been here 10.”
He said that one of the most alluring aspects of the university is the strong leadership and its values and overall integrity.
One of the more rewarding memories Coleman has of Gannon is when Dr. Taylor asked him to carry the cross at his inauguration ceremony last fall.
He said he was both honored and humbled to be such a large part of such an important event.
Other landmark events in Coleman’s time at Gannon include receiving the Bishop Trautman award two years ago, the Maroon Award, which recognizes members of the Gannon community who offer academic and personal attention to students, and an honorary membership in Beta Beta Beta for his work with the students involved.
He said that all of the awards he has received during his time at Gannon have been humbling and have taught him that making a difference in one person’s life can go a long way.
“I try to live by what my mom always said when I was a child: ‘Treat people as you wish to be treated,’” he said.
Coleman offered some advice for new students.
“Take advantage of the programs, and always feel free to engage with other students – adopt an open door policy, get to know the people around you,” he said.
He also encourages students to get involved in groups, such as fraternities and sororities, as they are great outlets.
Because protecting the students at Gannon in any way that he can is Coleman’s primary goal, he said that running the G.U.E.S.T. program is pretty rewarding because he can actively help students feel safer on campus.
Siobhan Brown, sophomore secondary English education major, recalled that she got locked in the Student Success Center one night as she stayed late after work in the Writing Center.
“I went to walk out the door and realized it was locked from the outside,” Brown said.
“I started to panic and couldn’t help but think that I would be stuck in there all night.”
Fortunately, Brown called Campus Police and Safety and Coleman came to her rescue.
“He didn’t scold me for staying after hours, and he didn’t make fun of me for getting locked inside either – he just unlocked the door in his typical merry manner and told me to have a good night as he jokingly warned me not to get locked in anymore places.”
All in all, Coleman said that the most rewarding part of his job is seeing that he has made a difference in someone’s life.
“I constantly see students frustrated and stressed in the Power Room, thinking that there’s no way that they will pass a class,” he said.
“And just talking to them, offering words of encouragement, makes a difference – even if it is a small difference.”
“That’s always been my job,” Coleman said.
“I wear many hats here at Gannon, but my service, I’d like to think, is far more than just to protect.”