Former teacher/coach receives honorary diploma

Bob Coleman, who taught at Quakertown Community Junior High School for 35 years, was honored by the QCHS Alumni Association.
Posted on 12/08/2020
Bob Coleman, wearing the graduation cap, speaks with Ray Fox.By Gary Weckselblatt

If between the years of 1956 and 1991 you attended the former Quakertown Community Junior High School and Bob Coleman was your social studies teacher, baseball or basketball coach, there’s a good chance he hasn’t forgotten you.

That was evident when a small group of family, friends and members of the Quakertown Community High School Alumni Association were on hand as the association awarded the 2020 QCHS Honorary Diploma to the retired educator.

“I am overwhelmed,” said Mr. Coleman, who received a diploma, graduation cap and 2020 tassel at the December 1st event at the entrance of Quakertown Community High School. “I’m going on 89. Hopefully, I’ll be able to see a lot more sunrises and sunsets. You get to this point in life, you don’t look too far down the road. This is something I’ll remember.”

The district has changed since Mr. Coleman’s days. The Junior High School was renamed Richard E Strayer Junior High School to honor a former Superintendent, and then became Strayer Middle School. When Mr. Coleman retired, Strayer was located at the current Sixth Grade Center.

While buildings and their names may change, Mr. Coleman’s legacy has taken root. That was evident as he entertained those at his ceremony with several amusing stories about his teaching career and his life in Quakertown. When someone showed him a photo, he pointed at the faces and excitedly recalled their names.

“You just had amazing ways to motivate,” said the association’s vice president, Ray Fox, who gave Mr. Coleman his diploma and helped place the cap on his head. Mr. Fox estimated that the guest of honor taught 6,000 students and athletes. “We appreciate what you did for so many,” he said. “We appreciate what you did for the kids in this town.”

Mr. Coleman, from Hegins, Pa, in Schuylkill County, graduated from Hegins High School, now known as Tri-Valley Junior/Senior High School. But he has made Quakertown his home and is considered one of the area’s most well-known residents.

“He is just so well known and beloved,” said Melea Rupert, president of the Alumni Association and a seventh-grade student in Mr. Coleman’s geography class. “He’s unlike any other teacher I ever had. He’s a real character. When you run into him he knows you, he knows your name and can tell your story if you were a player or a student for him. His memory is so amazing.”

As an example, while vacationing in Las Vegas, Mr. Coleman saw a woman wearing a Bloomsburg University shirt. As she walked closer, he recognized her. “It’s Betty Bartholomew from Richlandtown,” he recalled saying.

Peter Jarrett, who taught with Mr. Coleman, posted on Facebook: “It was great, once again, to hear Mr. Coleman share his wisdom. I am honored to have shared time with him as a student, coach, teaching colleague and friend. He taught us to be better citizens, athletes, teachers and friends.”

High school Principal Mattias van’t Hoenderdaal attended the event and smiled throughout Mr. Coleman’s remembrances. “It was a great honor to watch the celebration of his accomplishments and see him honored this way,” he said.

The Alumni Association’s first Honorary Diploma was awarded in 1937 to The Rev. Frank Ruth. At one point these events ceased, but educator and author Robert Leight, the association’s former president, restarted them about 12 years ago, Mrs. Rupert said.

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at [email protected].

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