A resident of the Athenaeum since 2008, Coleman is a former dean of students at Cazenovia College, where she is a trustee emerita and has donated money to start a scholarship in her name, according to the college’s website.
About five months after Campbell sent her letter, the Athenaeum staff were thrilled to learn via phone call that the white house staff had passed the letter along to the president and that he would be sending a reply, Athenaeum Executive Director Trudy Scarr said.
In February, they received a manila folder containing a personal note addressed to Coleman and a photograph, both signed by Obama himself.
In the letter, Obama writes: “Because you did not catch me go by, I wanted to send a quick note to let you know I am deeply grateful for your lifelong dedication to your students and fellow educators. Our Nation would not be what it is today without the hard work and passion of people like you.”
The Athenaeum staff plans to get the letter and photograph framed so they can be hung on the wall in Coleman’s room so that she can be reminded of the gesture every day.
Coleman and Campbell both said they were overjoyed to receive a reply from the president, especially one in the form of a personalized response.
“It sounded like he really read the letter and he answered it,” Campbell said.
“Everybody cared,” Scarr said. “The fact that she [Campbell] went out of her way to write the letter and that in the response he [Obama] recognizes her contribution to the society, that was really sweet.”
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.