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Legendary Professor Who Served ODU for Four Decades Dies

By Irv Harrell

Faye Elizabeth Coleman, an institution at Old Dominion University's College of Health Sciences, died after a brief illness Sunday, Jan. 20. She was 78.

Coleman devoted 55 years to the medical laboratory science profession, 40 of which she spent at ODU. She retired in June 2016, but continued serving as consultant and teaching part-time at ODU.

"In 46 years at five colleges I've never known a better classroom teacher than Faye Coleman," said Roy Ogle, a professor with the college and former chair of the School of Medical Diagnostic & Translational Sciences. "Her students could not have received a better education anywhere. She trained her students to succeed in the lab and in life. Before coming to ODU, I had worked with five vice presidents and senior directors at LifeNet Health, all of whom were graduates of Faye's program."

Coleman received a bachelor's degree in biology at Hampton University in 1962, a master of science in medical technology at St. John's University in 1973 and an ABD in the Ph.D. urban services program in 1997.

Before joining ODU as an assistant professor in 1978, Coleman served as education coordinator at U.S.P.H.S. Hospital in Staten Island, N.Y., and was a staff medical technologist at Leigh Memorial Hospital. In 1980, she became the director for the graduate program in medical laboratory sciences for students in several diagnostic professions. She served as medical technology program director from 1993 to 2016 and taught classes as professor emerita until this past fall.

Coleman was an active member of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science for many years, notably promoting mixed simulation format for clinical rotations in blood banking to alleviate clinical site shortages. She received many awards for her contributions to medical technology education.

When Professor Scott Sechrist came to interview at ODU for a position in its former School of Medical Laboratory Science (currently Medical Diagnostic and Translational Sciences), Coleman was one of his search committee members.

"She became my mentor, my colleague, my friend," said Sechrist, a certified nuclear medicine technologist since 1979. "I do not think I would be here today to write these memories if not for her. As a fellow program director, we met regularly to discuss faculty issues, educational theory, curriculum ideas and student stories. Sometimes our discussions would extend from our offices ... out to our cars in the parking lot. We called them our 'parking lot seminars."

Sechrist said Coleman helped guide him through the tenure process, educated him on objective writing and showed him how to handle a program from top to bottom. Coleman was that and so much more, he added.

"She was the cause of the Medical Technology Program," he said. "She was the stability that the students, the clinics and the public saw. Students knew she was tough, but they thanked her for it after graduation. She prepared them for the working world."

Ali Almutah, a foreign student originally from Saudi Arabia who was selected as an ODU outstanding scholar in 2014, called Coleman his most inspirational faculty member. "She encouraged her students to study hard and be well-prepared for all examinations," said Almutah, who graduated with a B.S. in medical technology with a GPA of 3.85.

Lynn Onesty, system director of Laboratory Services at Riverside Regional Medical Center, called her "a leader and mentor to so many in our field over the years."

Barbara Kraj, associate professor and director for the medical laboratory science program at ODU (formerly medical technology), worked with Coleman since she arrived at ODU in the fall of 2016.

"There are no words to describe the admiration and respect her colleagues and students hold for beloved Ms. Coleman, and neither are there words to describe the sadness shared by all who knew her," she said. "Faye was a wonderful professional but so much more than just an educator or a hematologist or a professor. We all have been blessed by knowing a beautiful person."

ODU President John R. Broderick put it simply: "I saw a great person!"

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