At St. Mary's High School in his hometown of Jersey City, N.J., Kenneth “Kenny” Coleman ’88 received all-state honors in baseball, but also played basketball so well that he landed a scholarship to the University of New Haven.
He was unquestionably good, establishing himself right away as a force to be reckoned with on the hardwood. But in the spring of 1985, when the starting second baseman of the baseball team got hurt in the first game, Coleman leaped at the opportunity. During his four years at UNH, Coleman started for both teams every year, earning second team All-America honors in baseball. He was elected to the UNH Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997.
Fortunately, he had solid role models who never let him forget his primary mission. “My dad worked as a foreman at a printing company that produced, among other things, the programs for the New York Yankees,” says Coleman. “He and my mom consistently reminded me to remain focused on my education.”
It was a message his coaches reinforced. “Coach Stu Grove used to take me aside regularly and tell me what a great opportunity I had, with an athletic scholarship, to get a really good education,” Coleman remembers. “It was good advice and I never forgot it.”
Although he enrolled as an engineering student, envisioning a career building roads and bridges, Coleman switched his major to communications midway through his undergraduate education. After he graduated in 1988, the Chicago White Sox signed him and he embarked on a professional baseball career with the idea of having fun and playing for as long as possible. “It was always in the back of my mind that baseball wouldn’t last forever, though,” he says.
Indeed, it did not. Coleman played eight years in the minor leagues. When it became clear he would never make it to the majors, he soon found an opportunity to put his communications skills to work with the Metropolitan Development Board in Birmingham, Ala., where he had played for the White Sox AA team, the Barons, as a teammate of Michael Jordan’s during the NBA star’s hiatus from basketball.
It was an easy transition from that job, in 1999, to a slot as residential marketing manager with the Birmingham Division of Alabama Power, part of Southern Company, a leading electric company in the Southeast. Over the next few years, as he rose through the company’s ranks, Coleman held positions of area manager, business development manager, and assistant to the executive vice president of external affairs.
In 2008, while working as sales and marketing director at Mississippi Power, he was named vice president of the Alabama Power’s Southern Division. And it was from there that he moved, last year, to the position of senior vice president and chief information officer at Southern Company.
Leading a team of 1,100 information technology employees, Coleman directs IT strategy and operations across 120,000 square miles.
It’s not lost on him that the job embraces both of the career tracks – engineering and communications – he contemplated as an undergraduate. “It’s fabulous work,” he says. “We are involved in every aspect of the business. It’s great fun.”
Posted Winter 2012