Jerome, JR, or Junior: Many names, but the same service excellence
by Caroline P. Rohr
Jerome Coleman. J.R. Junior.
No matter what you call him, you know what you’re going to get from him: excellent, personal service.
Coleman is the catering director for Aramark at CCU, and he was surprised with the inaugural Presidential Feel the Teal Award in October during the board of trustees meeting, presented to him by President David A. DeCenzo.
“I have strong affinity and love for someone from Aramark on our campus who has typified what we proudly call feel the teal,” DeCenzo said during the presentation. “His level of service, what he does to make everyone feel so welcome is unbelievable. It’s really important that we recognize a member of the Aramark team for what he’s done for us.”
The award was DeCenzo’s idea as a way to recognize Coleman’s exemplary service, and he worked with Chief of Staff Travis Overton and Christina Loughren, Aramark resident district manager, to create the award and the presentation, which included a video of campus partners singing Coleman’s praises:
- “He’s not happy until you’re happy with the end result.” – Shawn Sease, Office of Special Events
- “Everything about him is absolutely exceptional.” – Kelly Moore, Chanticleer Athletic Foundation
- “He provides so much to so many. He makes sure each person he interacts with has that personal touch that makes sure they had a unique experience.” – Travis Overton, Office of the President
- “He puts Coastal first. He was feeling the teal before it was a thing on campus.” – Sandy Baldridge-Adrian, Contractual and Business Services
- “Jerome is excellent in everything.” – Carlos Johnson, Office of University Counsel
Planning the surprise wasn’t easy. Coleman was originally supposed to have the day off to take his son to a doctor’s appointment, which ended up being canceled, so his supervisor told him he had to come to work.
“It wasn’t easy!” said Loughren. “We were so excited and honored that Jerome was going to receive this award that we wanted to share the exciting news with him so badly, but knew the surprise would be well worth the wait. He’s a busy man around campus, so he had no clue about all of the planning behind the scenes that was occurring.”
Coleman said when he was told he needed to go up to the board meeting, he thought he was needed in his capacity as catering director. As he walked into the room, he said he immediately began checking on the food to make sure everything was OK.
“Then Dr. DeCenzo came up and said what he said and showed the video,” Coleman remembered. “I was totally surprised and shocked. It is really hard to get a surprise on me, but I didn’t know. That video was amazing. I love every one of those people in that video.”
The feeling is mutual. People love to sing Coleman’s praises, and not just because he’s good at his job.
“Recently, we were in the midst of an event, which was going very well, but lunch had not occurred yet,” shared Loughren.” I was having a tough moment in my day and he stayed to listen to me and hugged me while I was crying, knowing full well that the moments he took for me would lead to more stress put on himself to set up and execute lunch. Taking the time for someone in need is so selfless. This is just one small, personal example that has made an impact in my life.”
As much as others sing praises about him, he sings praises about others, specifically his team members. He calls them his “crew” and his “family,” and gushes appreciation for all the hard work they do for the University.
“I love my crew,” he said simply. “When you have a job this hard, you have to make it family oriented and have some fun. One thing I always do with my crew is always tell them ‘great job,’ every single day. If I’m off, I call them and tell them, ‘Great job, and thank you for what you do.’"
Coleman started working in hospitality at Georgetown Memorial Hospital as a patient cook before spending some time at Creek Ratz in Murrells Inlet then eventually managing a pizza place. He came to CCU by way of Aramark in 2010, and they noticed his potential.
“They wanted me to go back to school,” he said. “I got my degree in culinary arts from HGTC and have just excelled from there. They told me I needed to be up front because I’m good with people, so I gave it a shot.”
It was a shot he is glad he took. Now he spends his days helping different groups on campus plan and organize a variety of events, from athletic events to business events to housing events. He has to spend a lot of time planning for the future to make sure everything runs smoothly the day of, right down to the cleanliness of water glasses to the softness of the bread rolls.
“I tell my staff that every event is a presidential event,” he said. “You never know who is coming to any given event, so we treat them all like they are a presidential event, and that makes each client satisfied and happy.”
It’s this attitude that has impacted so many at the University.
“Jerome is known today by the CCU community for the same work ethic and excellent customer service that he exhibited nine years ago [when he started at Aramark as a catering waiter],” said Loughren. “He is valued and trusted because of these unwavering characteristics and commitment to our University.”
While he knows the campus is growing and a lot of things are changing, his goals remain the same.
“I love this campus and how it’s growing. I’m going to do my best to make sure that everyone has the best experience they can. I want to make sure our customer service stays the same, no matter what else changes on campus.”