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  • Rick Mauch

Weatherford College honors Coleman for 50 years of service

(Editor's Note: The following article was published in March of 2018. Myrlan Coleman retired two years later in 2020. On Friday, April 30, Weatherford College honored her with a retirement reception.)

"Everything in our life is affected by art. The homes we live in, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive."

This is Myrlan Coleman's world, one anchored by art. The more people there are to create great art, the more opportunities there are for it to be enjoyed and experienced to its fullest.

For this reason, she not only creates art every chance she gets, she has been a part of the visual arts program at Weatherford College for nearly half a century

"Take the color red in a stop sign. They use that color because it instinctively tells us there is a danger if we don't stop," she said. "That's an example of the power of art. Art is important to the everyday person, not just those going into the field."

Myrlan works in a variety of mediums. She can paint, sculpt, draw. Don't ask which is her favorite because she said she truly has none.

"There's just so much about all forms of art that I love."

Her office at Weatherford College features classic paintings, a bit of sculpting, and above her desk is a modern art painting in which she mixed a variety of colors, dominated by blue. There's also a piece of copper art on an adjacent wall.

But one of the things for which she is most proud is a collage hanging over her desk. Framed are several of the Christmas cards she creates for Weatherford College, a tradition that began in 1993 in a collaboration between herself and then WC President Jim Boyd.

"Jim Boyd, when he was president, did everything he could to promote me. He was a good friend and a great president," she said. "The first one I did was the bell. The next year I did the coyote, and then we started building the plaza. One time I did the old college and the Jim Wright Library the year it was built.

"It's really special the way it has become an annual tradition. I look forward to it each year."

Myrlan was introduced to art at a young age.

"My mother would show some art. Primarily she did it for cultural enrichment, but she was great. She loved oil," Myrlan said. "She also loved to sculpt. I have a bust of my dad she did -- it's almost like looking at him."

Inspired by her mother, Myrlan attended the University of Texas in Austin and studied art. Most of her college classes had more students in them than her entire graduating class at tiny Morton High School.

"We didn't have an art program in high school at Morton, so in college I was competing against people from Highland Park and other big schools," Myrlan said. "I showed up early and stayed late. I hung out in the hallway when I didn't have a class. I did everything I could to learn everything I could.

"My dad was instrumental in me never quitting. He always said, 'You never reach the pinnacle. It's not possible.'"

This uplifting style has served Myrlan well in life, said WC Interim President Brent Baker, who has known for her many years. He said it also serves those who are fortunate enough to know her.

"What impresses me most about Myrlan is her positive attitude. You can count on her to have a smile and a nice thing to say," he said. "That's inspiring to me, and I'm sure it is for her students as well."

Her good friend of more than three decades, Judy White, an owner of Texas Butane in Weatherford, called Myrlan the most talented, gracious, kind-hearted person she's ever met.

"She would give the shirt off her back to help anyone, and she has done so much for those kids and the college. Two of my grandchildren had her as a teacher, and their lives are better for it."

Myrlan thought about going into the world of advertising after college, but after moving to Weatherford, her options for such were limited in those days. So, she presented a one-person show in Fort Worth to promote herself. Dr. Francis Law saw her work and offered her a job at the college.

She accepted, and while working on her master's degree she did advertising for the college and produced audio-visual projects.

"It was just a blessing that I wound up here at Weatherford College. It has been more than a place I've taught. It's been a home," she said.

Myrlan's art has hung in the homes and offices of some prestigious people, including former Speaker of the House Jim Wright in Washington, D.C. It was a landscape painting entitled "Texas Revisited."

"That was really cool. Being from Weatherford, he wanted a Weatherford artist," she said. "I was very flattered."

Her work is also included in the permanent collection of the University of Texas in Austin and has been displayed in the Wennas Ski Resort in Sweden. Another painting, "After the Storm," was awarded the Invitational Purchase Prize and purchased by Texas Woman's University to hang in the Texas Governor's Mansion, where it hung until the mansion burned down.

Her work can also be found in the collections of former Texas Speaker Reuben Senterfitt, former Senator Bob Glaskow, and former University of Texas football coach David McWilliams.

She also created a logo for Weatherford College that stood for many years shortly after her arrival on campus.

Judy said one of Myrlan's pieces of art, given to her during this past Christmas season, affected the lives of several people.

"I had a pic of my (late) dad and I had tried to have it blown up, but it was too blurry," Judy recalled. "Unbeknownst to me, my husband got with her, and Judy presented me with a sketch that was perfect. [The photo] was taken when he was 5 or 6 years old in overalls. But it's not just me she does that for. She does that for a lot of people."

Her awards are many. She's been featured in numerous publications, both spotlighted and as a contributor. But the opinion she values most is right here at home.

Myrlan, 71, has been married to Jim Coleman for 53 years. They own the City Pharmacy in downtown Weatherford. He is her biggest fan -- and critic.

"Jim has an incredible eye, I guess because he's been around art for so long," Myrlan said. Jim is himself a major success in his field. He was honored by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy for over 50 years of serving the community.

She and Jim have two children, daughter Jill and son Will. They have seven grandchildren.

During her nearly five decades at Weatherford College, Myrlan has seen many changes. She remembers being excited at having an electric typewriter when she first started.

"When we first got computers, we were so in awe."

Technology, Myrlan said, is easily the biggest change she's seen in her time at WC. While overall she sees it as a positive, it does have its challenges.

"In this new world, cell phones are a problem. Students will have headphones on under their hoodies. They think you don't know," she said with a chuckle. "But what would we do without cell phones?

"The students, though, are the most rewarding part of teaching. Often, there are those who never intended to do great things with art, and to see that world opened up to them is wonderful."

There have been opportunities to leave, she said. She was never seriously tempted.

"I have friends who have long retired and friends who are new on this campus,' Myrlan said. "I've had opportunities to leave, but I've always been happy here.

"I get a letter from Social Security every time I turn around, asking when I'm going to retire. The last time I filled one out, I told them 2048. I don't think I'll make it that long, but it would be nice to reach 50 years before I retire. That's a nice, round number."

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