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Henry S. Coleman '46, Former Interim Dean of the College, Dies at 79

Henry S. "Harry" Coleman '46, who held numerous administrative and athletics positions in his 32 years of University employment, died on January 31. He was 79 and lived in New Canaan, Conn.

Coleman was a member of the College Class of 1946 and earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the Engineering School in 1946. He received the College's John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement in 1996 and was a devoted and generous alumnus.

While a student, Coleman was captain of the crew team, a Varsity Show performer and a member of the Senior Society of Nacoms. He also worked on the Columbian and Spectator.

Coleman returned to Columbia in 1948 as a full-time employee when he became assistant to the dean of the College. From then until his retirement from Columbia in June 1980, he held a number of important positions. In 1951, Coleman joined the then-called physical education department as an assistant coach. From then until 1956, with several semesters away from Columbia, he served as a crew coach in various capacities, including as lightweight crew head coach.

In 1957, Coleman became assistant to the dean of the College. He held that position until moving to the Admissions Office, where he served as director of admissions from 1960–67. In 1967, Coleman became acting dean of the College, serving for just a year, but for a crucial year in Columbia's history. During the 1968 campus demonstrations, Coleman was barricaded in his Hamilton Hall office before he was permitted to leave the building. Coleman's status in the demonstrations was described in his 1996 John Jay Award citation: "As acting dean of the College during the spring of 1968, when authority figures were under attack, you — a Navy veteran who had served in Korea — calmly refused to be bullied or coerced, and retained the respect of hawks and doves alike."

In 1968, Coleman became dean of freshmen, a position he held until 1972. During this time, Coleman again was confronted by controversy when on July 25, 1972, a suspended student shot him in his office in Hamilton Hall. Columbia's volunteer emergency medical team responded and swiftly transported the dean to St. Luke's Hospital. From 1972–79, Coleman was dean of students and remained with the University in his last position, that of a consultant to the University president, from 1979–80.

Coleman continued to be involved with Columbia, giving generously of his time by serving the College and the Engineering School in a number of ways, among them as his class' Columbia College Today class correspondent from 1981 until 2006, as a member of the Columbia College Alumni Association Board of Directors, as a Class Agent for the Columbia College Alumni Fund and as an Alumni Representative Committee member for the Engineering School. Coleman also was a treasurer of the Society of Columbia Graduates, director of the Columbia University Club Foundation and director of student recruitment for the Fairfield County Alumni Club.

Coleman was so highly regarded that several alumni named endowed scholarships after him: the Henry S. Coleman Scholarship and the Henry S. Coleman Leadership Scholarship. Coleman served, as well, as a representative of the Columbia University Club Foundation Scholarship.

In addition to being honored by the College in 1996, the University Alumni Federation honored Coleman with the Alumni Medal in 1986, acknowledging his years of exceptional service and commitment to the University.

Coleman is survived by his wife, Lila; children, Wendy, Carrie '79 SW and Hank; and nine grandchildren.

Published: Feb 03, 2006
Last modified: Feb 06, 2006