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Arthel Coleman, Jr., ‘collaborator and peacemaker,’ wins an Amy J. Blue Award

Arthel Coleman, Jr., manager of student residential services at the Graduate School of Business, will receive an Amy J. Blue Award on Feb. 11. The award honors staff members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

Ask Arthel D’Antoine Coleman, Jr. to talk about the journey that led to overseeing student residential services at the Graduate School of Business (GSB) and he will say the story began on Oct. 12, 1977 – the day he was born at Stanford Hospital.

Arthel Coleman (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

“I’ve always felt a very unique connection to the university based on that,” said Coleman, a 2020 recipient of an Amy J. Blue Award, which honors staff members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

Coleman, who worked summers on campus after graduating from high school, recorded another milestone on Aug. 23, 2006 – the day he joined Stanford GSB Residences as a residential services coordinator. In that post, he worked the graveyard shift for nearly 10 years. He transitioned to senior student services coordinator – a day job – April 2016. In November 2018, he was promoted to manager of student residential services.

The GSB Residences – Schwab Residential Center and Jack McDonald Hall – are located across the street from the Knight Management Center. Together, the residences provide housing for students pursuing master of business administration (MBA) degrees.

“Arthel is one of those people who spreads so much joy, it’s hard to believe they’re real,” said Lucy Montgomery, one of 74 MBA students who nominated Coleman for the award.

“But he’s so genuine, you can’t doubt it. He seems to know all of the students at the GSB – and all of their pets – by name, and he greets everyone with a smile and a question or a comment about their lives, even if it has been months since their last conversation with him, she said, adding, “If you’re down, he always has a way to make you smile, whether that’s a piece of chocolate, a fun fact, or – in one memorable case – dancing on a picnic table.”

One of three Amy J. Blue Award winners

Coleman is one of three Stanford employees recently named 2020 Amy J. Blue Award winners. The other recipients are Joel Gonzalez, a media technician in Event Services, and Cindy Ng, the Scott J.J. Hsu Director of the Asian American Activities Center.

They will be honored in an online celebration at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. Elizabeth Zacharias, vice president for human resources, will be the featured speaker. The link to the Zoom meeting is here. Coleman, Gonzalez and Ng will be invited to attend an in-person ceremony – likely to be held in the fall – that will also honor the 2021 award winners.

Carrying on a legacy

One of the first people that Coleman informed about winning the award was his father, Arthel Coleman Sr., who won an Amy J. Blue Award 25 years ago when he was a project crew manager in housing and dining maintenance.

Coleman said it was hard to describe how powerful it felt to tell his father.

“I know how hard my father worked and how much of himself he dedicated to working in Residential & Dining Services,” he said. “To be able to carry on that part of him, not only his name but his efforts too, makes me very proud. It made him very proud, too.”

Coleman said his job is to make sure that the GSB Residences feel like home by providing a warm and welcoming environment.

“Ultimately, my responsibility is making sure the building is in tip-top shape and that I’m taking care of the students who are living here so they can focus on their studies,” he said.

Amaya Jacobs, communications and marketing manager in MBA Admissions, said she has been “blown away” by Coleman’s dedication to his work and the university.

“During a tour of the residences for newly admitted students, Arthel managed to share wisdom, to offer a unique perspective on the university from someone who has spent his career at Stanford, and to impart the importance of taking time for reflection and appreciating the opportunities that students have here,” Jacobs said. “In a post-event survey, one of those students wrote, ‘If this is the kind of person I will meet at Stanford, then I could not imagine myself anywhere else.’”

Coleman credits his success to his “amazing team” and to the inspirational leadership style of his former manager and current director, Bernadette deRafael, who is now the director of Facilities & Hospitality and Emerging Projects at the GSB.

Collaborator and peacemaker

Courtney Payne, director of the GSB Student Life Office, described Coleman as “a collaborator and a peacemaker,” saying he is outstanding at addressing student conflicts.

Since the residences have remained open during the pandemic, Coleman and his team have taken on new and challenging responsibilities, including implementing university guidelines designed to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“He sparkles in this moment,” Payne said. “Arthel is beloved with a capital B.”