By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Reggie Coleman's ties to John Wood Community College reach back before the new campus at 48th and Harrison opened in 2002.
Coleman has watched the school evolve from its former home at the corner of 48th and Maine -- that featured a series of connected pods -- to its current state-of-the-art site less than a mile to the south.
Coleman, the senior member of the college Board of Trustees, is serving his third six-year term while also serving as president of the Illinois Community College Trustee Association. While the role of a public servant has occupied much of his time for more than a decade, that was hardly what drew him to Quincy in the first place.
"I wanted to get into broadcasting. That's why I came to Quincy from Chicago," Coleman said. "I was looking for a Catholic school in a city where I could get involved with broadcasting."
Coleman said he spurned offers from Yale, Columbia and the University of Illinois-Chicago to come to Quincy.
"When I was looking for a place that would be good to get a start in broadcasting and saw Quincy was the home to Broadcast Electronics and the Harris Corporation," he said. "I figured there would be opportunities there."
He was right.
"I wanted to gain experience in all facets of the broadcasting industry," Coleman said. "I had on-air experience in Chicago, but that was a union town, and that meant union employees did all of the (production work). As an on-air person, I was not allowed to touch any of the dials or do any of the board work."
In Quincy, he worked for television and radio stations alike in the area, both in front and behind the camera. Initially, part-time work in those positions helped finance his way through Quincy University. They also helped him gain an understanding of the city.
Although he has been involved off and on with the radio and TV industry "for 39 years," Coleman also worked as executive director of the Redmon and Lee Center and sold insurance.
A series of serious health issues in the late 1990s limited Coleman's activities, including full-time work, but led him to running for the John Wood board at the urging of a friend. He almost nixed that idea.
"I had run for the School Board before that, and when I didn't get elected, I was not sure if I wanted to run for anything again," he said.
Coleman was elected to the JWCC Board in 1999, then re-elected in 2005 and 2011. Much of his time these days is spent handling Illinois Community College Trustee Association duties as its president. The association provides legislative advocacy and educational opportunities for the state's community college boards. It also serves as a lobbyist arm for the state's 48 community colleges.
The Illinois community college system is the third-largest in the nation with more than 1 million students, with 2,300 at John Wood.
Coleman has been involved with the Illinois Community College Trustee Association's efforts in the state's ongoing budget problems and the trickle-down effect on community colleges. In John Wood's case, the state has paid just $413,000 of the $2.6 million it is owed in the current fiscal year.
Coleman, whose one-year term as association president expires June 30, is not sure whether he'll seek a fourth term on the John Wood's Board in 2017.
"I may want to do something else by then," he said.