Published: Oct. 9, 2017
Bud Coleman next to step into leading role of commencement marshal

Announced today, Bud Coleman will become the new University of Colorado Boulder commencement marshal—a role he likens, tongue-in-cheek, to being a waiter.

“The chancellor confers the degrees, my duty is to keep the courses moving and make sure we get to dessert,” says the theater professor and CU in D.C. director, a 24-year veteran among the CU Boulder faculty.

More seriously, his analogy comes from a place of humility and reverence, heading into the upcoming ceremony May 10, 2018, when like a baton he’ll first take the university mace carried previously for many years by retired University Libraries Dean James Williams.

“To use a theater metaphor, I’m not going to replace the star,” says Coleman, who for 14 years was the chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance. “I’m just the next person in the role, because I cannot replace Jim Williams. I’m so, so honored to step into this position.”

It’s a mantle that will come naturally to the one-time ballet dancer, director and choreographer of prominent plays and musicals, wardrobe supervisor and more—a self-described fan of ritual.

“The pageantry, scripting and costuming of rituals appeals to me because I see myself as a director and choreographer in a place of creating community and telling stories, so commencement, one of our grandest traditions on campus, has great value for me,” he says, having led about 28 smaller departmental commencements in past years as chair.

The Norlin Charge

We’re saying as a community, both as a university and a family, ‘We support you. We’re celebrating what you have done and we’re here to support you as you start this new chapter in your life.’”

Not only is commencement a ritual, but it also is a rite with a powerful and lasting message, according to Coleman. The word commencement can seem contradictory—meaning a beginning—just as students are finishing their careers on campus, but in fact there’s a perfect dichotomy in the definition.

“I love that it’s called commencement because it’s not only about celebrating what has happened to our students, but it’s also celebrating what is going to happen as alums,” says Coleman. “We’re saying as a community, both as a university and a family, ‘We support you. We’re celebrating what you have done and we’re here to support you as you start this new chapter in your life.’”

It’s exactly the sentiment of the Norlin Charge, a commencement custom that Coleman exclaims is one of the most brilliant things ever written. He says it’s inspirational as it reminds graduating students that CU Boulder will be with them wherever they go.

“It’s saying we’re proud of you and as you go through your life, whatever the future holds, you will always be part of the University of Colorado Boulder family. What a great message!”

Movement and continuum

The Norlin Charge is a message of not only pride, family and belonging, but also of movement and continuum—notions Coleman embodies through the performing arts, his involvement on campus and his CU Boulder career.

There’s a kind of a continuum in his participation as a speaker at the campus’s Be Boulder for a Day program for students awaiting admission and at student convocation each year, welcoming new students to the academic fellowship—students he’ll now eventually see at commencement.

There’s also his progression into the Roe Green Endowed Chair in Theatre, the first endowed chair in an arts discipline in the College of Arts and Sciences, established in 2012. Green herself stipulated she wanted to see Coleman the inaugural chair-holder.

Coleman speaks of his appointment to the position as one of his greatest honors and something that props up his drive and dedication.

“Her faith and trust in me and the campus keeps me moving every day,” he says of Green.

No doubt Coleman will carry these values forward, playing the leading role as CU Boulder commencement marshal.