“Good morning, and welcome to Coleman Junior High,” announced Evelyn Coleman as she began a speech from atop the stage inside a building that now dons her name.

Applause often filled the Waxahachie ISD Fine Arts Center on Friday morning to honor the dedication of the newly repurposed school building — Coleman Junior High.

For 31 years, Coleman served Waxahachie ISD as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and administrator. After retirement, she dedicated 10 more years to the district serving on the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees, eventually becoming the first Black female president.

She said it was a privilege and honor to stand in front of friends, family and the community to express her gratitude in the dedication of her name.

“I will remember this day as long as my memory will serve me,” Coleman added.

Instead of informing the crowd of educational philosophies, she used the time to answer the three most frequently asked questions.

Coleman told the crowd that students commonly ask her, “Well, what did you do to get a school named after you?” She said her generic answer is, “I’ve done nothing special. I’ve been part of the school district for 60 plus years. In fact, while the school bears my name it belongs to all of us.”

She quoted an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” She then acknowledged those who made a difference in her life.

First, Coleman named her parents who taught her to love and reverence God and to respect herself and others. Her parents also instilled a life of education and shared that it does not end once graduated.

“Learning is a lifelong process,” Coleman said.

She then mentioned her late husband of 41 years, Alfred Eugene Coleman. “For those who knew him, know that if he were here today, he would tell all of his friends that the school was named after him,” she joked.

She pointed out her sister in the crowd, who is also a retired educator and served the education system for 37 years. Members of her 1966 graduating class also sat inside the auditorium, along with former teachers, administrators, board members, and church families.

The second question she is often asked is, “What do you envision this school to be?”

Coleman always answers, “I want this school to be a place where every student, every staff member and every parent feels that they are an integral part of the education process.”

She pointed out that, even though the Coleman Junior High campus is not a state-of-the-art facility, it is a “state-of-the-heart facility.” She experienced the parents and teachers tireless work before the doors opened for the first day.

“Students don’t know how much we know until they know how much we care,” Coleman stressed.

The last question she received was from a student a couple of weeks ago. The young girl approached Coleman, who had volunteered to help pass out schedules, with a puzzled look as asked her if he was who the school was named after. Coleman replied “yes.” The child was polite and said, “well, you’re nothing like I expected.”

Coleman asked the child to clarify and the child said, “Well, I expected a little old lady.”

“To which I responded you’re partially correct. I’m not little,” Coleman said.

Coleman then thanked everyone and closed with a Native American proverb.

“Learning is a treasure, which no thief can steal,” she concluded.

Max Simpson, a former assistant superintendent and board member, spoke before Coleman and explained the professional and personal relationship that has existed for the past 48 years.

He also provided a history lesson that dated back to 1970. He referenced it as the “busiest months of this school district.” The district had crafted a district-wide desegregation plan approved by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. It had to be implemented the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Campuses and the administration building relocated all around Waxahachie, and 68 new positions had to be filled. One of those 68 was Evelyn Love.

“It was a no-brainer to hire Evelyn. She had graduated from Turner High School in this district. Her transcript was very, very good,” Simpson said.

Simpson said she exceeded all expectations over the following 21 years. He then listed the numerous leadership positions she had fulfilled and explained that he approached Coleman twice about serving on the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees. On the second try, she accepted.

“She loved it so much. She loved being with all of us. She ran again. We didn’t even have to talk to her and she ran the ballot. She got more votes than anyone else who ran,” Simpson emphasized.

Her vote as board president was not a surprise to Simpson, either. As he explained, Coleman has achieved all her life.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450