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It is heartwarming to talk to families who are close in spirit and in their goals.
The Coleman family of Greenville is one of those families.
Born in Burlington, North Carolina, John Henry Coleman III, grew up in modest circumstances. After graduating from high school, he joined the Navy and served his country honorably until his discharge in 1945. After his service, he returned to Burlington on Christmas Day in a snowstorm. Since there were no buses running, he walked in deep snow from Burlington to Elon where his parents lived.
"Everyone was elated that Christmas Day my grandmother told me," said John's daughter, Lynda Coleman. "They told me there weren't many gifts, but there was an abundance of great food. Since I was a child, our Christmases were always filled with the true spirit of the holidays with lots of love and joy."
Lynda's mother, Raymail, also grew up in Burlington, met and married John Henry just five months after their initial meeting. Now in her 90s, Raymail recounted with a smile the tight family circle she and her husband created with their only child Lynda.
It was when Lynda's father was transferred to a Burlington Industries plant in Cheraw, South Carolina, that Clemson became more and more a part of their lives.
"When my father lived in North Carolina, he pulled for North Carolina teams," explained Lynda. "When we moved to South Carolina, many of my father's co-workers were Clemson fans and took him to athletic events, especially football games. After a few years he truly became a Tiger fan." Many of Lynda's high school classmates were Tiger fans as well, and she attended several football games at Clemson during those years. "Those football games to a high school student were so exciting," added Lynda. "I just loved what I saw of life at Clemson."
As a high school senior, Lynda applied to three colleges, but chose Clemson. "I enrolled in Clemson as a medical technology major. As my sophomore year approached, I realized this was not my passion and changed my course of study to secondary education and graduated in 1975." She completed her student teaching at Pickens High School. After obtaining her master's degree in 1976, Pickens High Principal Doug Clamp, also a Clemson graduate, hired Lynda. While teaching, Lynda continued her Clemson education and received her education specialist credentials. She taught English for 33 years at Pickens High School before retiring. Later she was offered a teaching position at Palmetto High School in Anderson District 1, once again teaching English.
Now fully retired after 35 years, Lynda credits many former teachers and professors with building her passion for teaching, including Dr. Elizabeth Galloway, who taught graduate courses in reading at Clemson. "She took teaching to a whole new level," said Lynda. "She set the bar high and produced outstanding students. I continue to think of her as a mentor and exemplary professor." Lynda also credits Dr. Beatrice Bailey, another Clemson professor who went out of her way to support Clemson education majors while they were student teachers.
After Lynda's father passed away in 2011, she and her mother wanted to review their estate plans and met with an estate attorney who recommended that they talk to JoVanna King, Clemson's Senior Director of Principal Gifts and Gift and Estate Planning. As a result, Lynda and her mother created two scholarships as part of their bequest to Clemson.
The first gift is the John Henry Coleman III Family Scholarship Endowment for Education Excellence that provides merit-based scholarships to secondary education majors in English. The second endowment is the John Henry Coleman III Family Scholarship Endowment for Education that provides need-based scholarships to secondary education majors in english. Recipients of both scholarships are selected from Pickens, Anderson or Chesterfield Counties and will be known as John Henry Coleman III Family Scholars.
"My father was a hardworking and very humble man," said Lynda, who now cares for her mother and whose bond with her is reflected in the way they describe their mutual love for Clemson and the educational opportunities it provides. "I was so fortunate to have parents who supported me and others who served as great examples of how a teacher can change the lives of their students."
Having served on scholarship selection committees, Lynda knows the many hardships students face in trying to find the funds to attend college. "My mother and I wanted to honor those students who need the financial assistance to enter this very honorable profession.
"When I encounter a former student who is now a lawyer, doctor, engineer, architect or a successful person in any profession, it's very rewarding," said Lynda. "Just like in any profession, there are challenges in teaching, but the gratification is far greater."
Lynda and her mother, Raymail, feel strongly about giving back to the teaching profession. As Lynda said, "I know the difference teachers can make in a student's life, and we want to use part of our estate to help others become great teachers who will impact the lives of hundreds of students for years to come."