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Coleman’s 50 teaching years inspires at Wingate
Jennifer Gaskins, Wingate University
September 08, 2010

Coleman’s 50 teaching years inspires at Wingate

Coleman’s 50 teaching years inspires at Wingate
Jennifer Gaskins, Wingate University
September 08, 2010

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Each North

Carolina Baptist college was invited to submit an article for a feature package

in the Sept. 11 issue of the Biblical Recorder. Scroll to bottom to find links

to all the stories.)

After teaching religion for

50 years, Byrns Coleman is a Wingate institution.

In the classroom, at faculty

devotionals, carrying the mace at baccalaureate and commencement, comforting

peers or talking to students Coleman is there for moments big and small.

Coleman is an eternal

optimist and his emotional roots in Wingate run as deep as his long career and

perhaps were planted when he met his future wife, Alice, upon his arrival on

campus at age 25. Alice was an assistant librarian and the two hung out with a

group of new faculty members. After 47 years, the couple is still happily

married.

Rather than talk about

himself, Coleman points out the people most important to him — his family,

friends, former pastors and teachers. Their photos and newspaper articles about

them adorn his office walls.

A family photo shows the

entire Coleman clan, including the three children, all of whom graduated from

Wingate into medical careers. Bookcases from floor to ceiling are stacked full

of books by some of his favorite authors William Barclay, C.S Lewis, Paul

Tournier. It’s easy to feel at home and inspired in the office of Byrns

Coleman.

He chuckles when he recalls

the early days sharing a basement office with Dean Donald Haskins. Back then,

accommodations were sparse and the two professors had only one chair for students

to sit in when they visited.

“When a student came in one

of us would have to leave,” he said.

Mars Hill photo

“I have had opportunities to leave, but each time, so many exciting things were happening around here that I decided to stay to see what would happen next,” said Byrns Coleman of his longevity at Wingate University.

How does a professor stay

engaged and fresh for 50 years? “I’ve kept reading, and I attend a lot of

workshops,” said Coleman. “Teaching in itself is a constant learning experience

because the teachers always learn more than the students.”

Greek and the Gospels are

his favorite courses to teach because they help with interpreting the New

Testament. Not only has he taught the subject at Wingate; Coleman has been an

adjunct professor at Gordon Cornwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte for

seven years.

Coleman’s influence extends

far beyond campus and into local churches where he has been interim pastor of

some churches as many as four times.

This year, the Baptist State

Convention of North Carolina honored Coleman with the Baptist Heritage Award,

given to individuals who represent exemplary giving and service to

organizations associated with the Convention.

Despite many requests,

Coleman resisted the temptation to be a fulltime pastor. “I have too many

emotional hang-ups to do what pastors do,” he said. “I have had opportunities

to leave, but each time, so many exciting things were happening around here

that I decided to stay to see what would happen next.”

When people ask Coleman if

he is ready to retire, he says, “Every morning when the alarm goes off.” Just

to stay on his toes as chairman of the religion department, he assigns himself

an 8 a.m. class each day and teaches four classes a semester.

Outside the classroom,

Coleman teaches a weekly Bible study program on Wingate University television.

As he recalled his pilot show for the station 20 years ago, he pulled out of

his desk a letter written by a 78-year-old woman who had watched his program

and requested his Bible study planner. “She was so inspired by one of the

programs we did with Rev. Darrell Smith that she thanked us for helping her

realize that her life is not yet over and that she can still be useful,” he

said.

He has performed the

weddings for so many former students he has lost count. Coleman has taught

his share of former students’ children and has even had his own children in his

classes “Haskins and I used to laugh and say when the grandkids show up in

class, we’re leaving,” he said.

He recalled a mother who

recently introduced her son to him and said she wanted him to take Coleman’s

class like she did 20 years ago because some of the things he said changed her

life.

“It’s kind of frightening

how influential we are without even realizing it,” Coleman said.

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Coleman’s 50 teaching years inspires at Wingate

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