Shawn Coleman ’83

Favorite professors: Dr. Andrew Zanella; Dr. Ronald K.S. Macaulay

What keeps you busy now: On October 2, 2018, I was issued a patent for one of my ideas. This was the culmination of four years of work. I am now busy launching the product, which I named WEDJ Containers, starting in California.

What is your dream job: I am living it! For the second time since graduating from Pitzer, I have started my own business, of which I am president and CEO.

What book is currently on your nightstand: Sobering Trademark Stories, by David L. Hoffman, Esq. David’s firm, Hoffman Patent Group, handles intellectual property matters for my company.

Best question to ask in an interview: What infrastructure does this enterprise have in place to ensure a sustainable future?

What do you miss most about Pitzer: The people

What is your most memorable Pitzer moment: During my time at Pitzer, I lived the student-athlete dichotomy. Therefore, I have two most memorable moments. As an athlete, I made a catch in a 1980 football game against Azusa Pacific. I remember the ball being high and me jumping up to get it. From the sidelines, my teammates described me as “flying” up to get the ball. They said that I vertically jumped more than three feet. As I landed, I was hit hard by at least three defenders, but I held onto the ball, which was marked on the opponent’s three-yard line. We scored on the next play. Head Coach Steinhour said it was one of the greatest efforts he had seen. As a student, the moment I turned in my senior thesis I knew that I earned my degree in chemistry and the sense of accomplishment and pride I had at the time was palpable. I was the second family member of my generation to obtain a degree. My oldest brother had the same accomplishment three years before when he was awarded a degree in computer science from Washington University in St. Louis.

Top networking tip: Treat EVERYONE with respect, regardless of their occupation, race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, or other distinctive circumstance. My professional journey began less than one month after I graduated from Pitzer. I was speaking to some guys who also grew up in Santa Monica. They were welcoming me back and asking about what college I attended and the type of degree I received. As expected, none of them ever heard of Pitzer College and they figured that I had some kind of science or engineering degree. One of the guys said he worked in the shipping/receiving department of a business in Santa Monica and he could probably get me a job. I said that I was not sure I wanted that kind of job. He said that I misunderstood him, that the company makes some kind of test kits, and there were a lot of employees at the business who wore white lab coats. He gave me the owner’s office number and I called the next day. The company was Pantex, they manufactured radioimmunoassay kits for testing steroids and androgens, and I was hired as a quality control chemist. About three months later, in September of 1983, I began my first corporate job as an analytical chemist for the Chevron Refinery in El Segundo, CA. This event gave me the first proof of an adage that my parents often cited: “It’s easier to find a job when you already have one.”

Where do you work/what is your title: I own and operate a California subchapter S corporation, S. Coleman Enterprises, Inc. I am the president and CEO.

What is your favorite part of your job: Having an idea and manifesting it in the real world. I have been able to take one of my ideas that was originally conceptualized in the 1990s, when I owned my first business. From that idea, I was issued a patent, which validates another accomplishment, that of inventor. A manufacturing platform has been developed and I will have units to sell by March of 2019. My product, WEDJ Containers, will benefit the environment.

How did you get into your current line of work: When I was an analytical chemist for Chevron, there was a section of the lab that housed the Environmental Department. This department collected soil, water, air, and waste samples and either tested them or sent them out to commercial testing labs. Jeff was the lead chemist for the Environmental Department. One of the tasks that Jeff routinely performed was sampling the water in deep wells located throughout the refinery. Some of these wells were beneath large manhole covers that were removed using a five-foot pry bar. One day, the pry bar slipped, the manhole cover shattered Jeff’s foot, and my boss asked me to take over Jeff’s responsibilities. This was the start of my career as an Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) professional. Over the next 30 years, every position that I worked had a predominant EHS component.

Favorite quote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

Any last thoughts to share with fellow alumni? In 1977, a multi-race teenager began researching colleges in the continental United States. His initial list of prospective institutions did not include Pitzer. In 1978, he achieved SAT scores that garnered attention from dozens of schools that were not on his list, including Pitzer. Additional research yielded a top five list of schools that did include Pitzer, which was ultimately selected for three reasons:

1. The ability to design a curriculum – All of the other schools in the final top five had “breadth requirements” that included classes in fields that were of no interest.

2. Close contact with faculty – Students who attended USC, UCLA, and other large schools in that era had limited contact with their professors.

3. An ethnic and socio-economic makeup emulating that of Santa Monica Unified School District – Racism and other exclusionary practices were a daily hazard for minorities in the 1970s. The relative diversity of Santa Monica in those days provided some insulation as well as a sense of comfort.

The parents of the teenager raised him to believe that he could accomplish anything upon which he focused his mind. Pitzer was the perfect incubator for this philosophy.

Youth is a time rife with mistakes and 35 years is more than enough time for a comprehensive retrospective of the decisions made early in one’s life. Be it based in serendipity or genius, my decision to attend Pitzer College will always be beyond reproach.

sacole7@msn.com

Submitted October 2018