|Coleman was well known around campus |
for her keen fashion sense
President Julius Foust himself recruited Coleman to North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) from her position at Columbia. Coleman was excited about the opportunity to train teachers, but she was also aware that the Greensboro campus had no gymnasium building. Still Foust was able to persuade her to come to NCCW as assistant to physical education director Fay Davenport. Davenport left in 1921, and Coleman was promoted to the role of head of the Department of Physical Education.
One of Coleman's primary goals as department head was to build the facilities for physical education on campus. The first structure build was a 50 x 90-foot outdoor gymnasium. The structure consisted of little more than a floor and a roof supported by posts, but served as a dedicated space for physical education. Soon thereafter, Rosenthal Gymnasium was built (Rosenthal Gym is now part of the Coleman Building). Completed in 1925, Rosenthal contained a swimming pool, basketball court, and other amenities. Campus legend states that, prior to the construction of Rosenthal, administrators gave Coleman a choice -- either a swimming pool or a gymnasium, but not both. Coleman wisely chose the swimming pool, knowing that a gym was so obviously needed that it would have to be completed shortly. Outdoor playing fields and tennis courts were added as well.
|Coleman with her terrier Bonnie, who was
to be "just as equally ferocious as Miss Coleman."
In addition to her work as department head, Coleman was very active professionally. She wrote numerous articles for professional magazines and journals, and was a frequent speaker at many educational and civic group meetings. She was one of the founders and the first president of the North Carolina Physical Educators' Society, and she served as president of the Southern District Association of both the American Physical Education Association (APEA) and the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER). She was named Southern Regional Director of the American Folk Arts Association in recognition of her service in the collection and publication of folks songs, games, and dances of the South. And in 1935, she received the Honor Award Citation for Meritorious Service, the highest award of the AAHPER.
On October 1, 1947, Mary Channing Coleman taught her 8:00 am class, met with staff members in the Department of Physical Education, and left Rosenthal Gymnasium just before 11:00 am. While driving away from campus, Coleman suffered a heart attack, causing her car to crash into a five-ton gate pillar at the campus entrance on Spring Garden Street. She died soon after at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro.
|The 1948 Pine Needles yearbook was |
dedicated in Coleman's memory.
In a meeting with physical education staff members the morning before her death, Coleman spoke of her plan for retirement at the end of the year and asked her staff members not to throw her a big party or hold a celebration in her honor. She simply wanted to "say goodbye and leave" -- which is exactly what she did. But her legacy remains both at UNCG and within the field of physical education.