For the second time in the last five years, a Centre College graduate will serve as lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, continuing a long tradition of alumni pursuing public service at the highest levels of local, state and federal government.
Jacqueline Coleman ’04, a fifth-generation native of Mercer County, will follow in the footsteps of Crit Luallen ’74 when she takes the oath of office in Frankfort on Dec. 10.
A history major at Centre, Coleman graduated in 2004 during a ceremony at which Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor gave the Commencement address.
She will be the third Centre graduate to serve as lieutenant governor. Luallen held this office from 2014-2015 and James Breathitt Jr. from 1927-1931.
Coleman made her first foray into electoral politics in 2014, when she ran unsuccessfully for the seat held previously by her father, Jack Coleman Jr. He served for 15 years (1991-2004) as state representative in the 55th district, which includes the cities of Nicholasville, Burgin, Harrodsburg, Willisburg and Springfield.
Her involvement in politics began much earlier, however. As a 26-year-old, Coleman traveled to Denver in August 2008 as a delegate to her party’s national convention. Among the 60 Kentucky delegates that year were now former Governor Steve Beshear and Crit Luallen.
A lifelong educator, Coleman most recently served as assistant principal of Nelson County High School, a position from which she has been on leave while campaigning. She has also taught at schools in Burgin and Nicholasville.
Coleman’s devotion to higher education includes work as founder of Lead Kentucky, which, since 2013, has helped women attending Kentucky colleges become the Commonwealth’s next generation of leaders by helping them seek leadership positions on their campuses and across Kentucky.
A varsity starter and standout basketball player at Centre, Coleman once scored a combined 45 points in back-to-back games against Hendrix and Rhodes. She went on to become a decorated basketball coach at Burgin and East Jessamine high schools, setting consecutive win records and achieving a Sweet 16 appearance.
She came by her skills honestly, since basketball runs in her blood. Grandfather Jack Coleman, who was the first to score 1,000 points for the University of Louisville, went on to an eight-year NBA career.
Coleman and husband Chris O’Bryan, a fellow Centre graduate and head boys’ basketball coach at Frankfort High School, are the parents of Emma, Will and Nate. They will welcome their fourth child in February.
by Michael Strysick
November 14, 2019