The Converse family is mourning the death of the College’s fifth president, Dr. Robert T. Coleman, Jr. who passed away February 9, 2009. A memorial service will be held in Daniel Recital Hall on the Converse campus at 1:00 pm on Thursday, February 12, followed by a graveside service at 3:30 pm at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.
The husband of the late Virginia Faye Douglas, Dr. Coleman is survived by three sons: Robert Thomas Coleman III, Frank Hutchinson Coleman II and William Douglas Coleman; and a daughter, Susan Coleman Buzbee.
In lieu of flowers, the Coleman family has requested that memorials be made to the Robert T. Coleman, Jr. Scholarship Fund at Converse College. Letters of condolence may be sent online.
Coleman’s tenure as president of Converse spanned 28 years—more than a quarter of a century—from 1961-1989. Through his commitment, vision and leadership, virtually all components of the College experienced unprecedented growth: from the construction of new academic buildings and residence halls, to improvements in the liberal arts curriculum and financial aid offerings for students to accommodate a student body that more than doubled in size.
“The Converse community is deeply saddened by President Coleman’s death, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” said current Converse President Betsy Fleming. “Dr. Coleman’s many achievements during his tenure as president were a direct result of his vision and dedication to Converse’s mission of preparing women to see clearly, decide wisely and act justly. His legacy is an invaluable part of the foundation we build upon today in advancing women for personal and professional success.”
It is perhaps ironic that a man who had no ambitions of becoming a college president would in fact lead such an institution to such heights. In fact, Coleman seemed destined for a career in private business initially. The Houston, Texas native earned his bachelor of business administration from the University of Texas and—after two-years as a volunteer ambulance driver for the American Field Service during World War II in Italy—received his master of business administration from Harvard University. In 1958, he received his credentials as a certified public accountant from the State of Texas. He briefly taught mathematics at St. John’s Preparatory School in Houston before the deaths of his father and brother forced him to leave education to manage the family’s Galveston-based retail building materials business from 1954-1959. While in Galveston, he also served on the Board of Directors of the U.S. National Bank, as vice president and director of the Galveston Retail Merchants Association and was a leader in the United Fund.