LtoR: Grandparents Cicero & Edith, Grandmom Ruth, Mom, Me, Stephen, Granddad Carroll

I was raised in a very small, mountain town in Tennessee named Allardt (pronounced ‘al-lärt). So small in fact, I was born in the hospital in the next county South. Allardt is an a German family name, although there is no one left in Fentress County called that that I know of. While Jamestown is the county seat and, at 1,850 people is far larger than Allardt at just about 650, I always considered Allardt to be my hometown. As you can imagine, life was pretty quiet in such a small country town. I was involved in the local Boy Scout troop and attended the local Presbyterian Church since birth. My father was a local attorney (think Atticus Finch) and my mom an elementary school tearch, who later became a National Park Service employee. I grew up with my two brothers, Stephen (older) and David (younger). Like I said, quiet.

My high school soccer photo

Life in high school wasn’t much different. I attended Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute (yes, that’s a high school), which was named after the local World War I hero. If you haven’t seen the Gary Cooper film about York, you really should. I saw in about 10 times while I was in school there, if you can imagine. I played soccer for three years in school and was active in a number of clubs. One of the most fun things I was into, though, was not at school but playing with my younger brother and our neighbor in a rock band. I played guitar for a few years and then flipped backstage to the drums. I wasn’t really good at either, but it was a lot of fun. We had a few names for our band, but none of that really stuck in my mind. It was just great getting to hang out with two other guys and play music. Great for getting me ready for college.

Playing drums with Dave Coleman

In the spring of 1994, I was getting pretty restless at high school. Being seventeen, my parents having some relationship trouble, and a girlfriend who was way more serious than I needed were all making me want to move out as soon as possible. By a lucky administration screw-up, I was able to enrolled in college before ever having graduated (I did graduate the next month, though). I moved out soon there after and took a engineering graphics course at Tennessee Technological University in nearby Cookeville, TN. Going to the closest university seemed like high school, part II at first, but I soon expanded my horizons. I had wanted to study engineering for some time, but wasn’t really sure what discipline. Mechanical engineering and telecommunications seemed promising at the time. There were a couple of new buzz word around then like "internet" and "e-mail" and so I thought that designing hardware would be a steady industry. It doesn’t matter whether I was right or not, because I would change my major in three years.

My college id card

I spent the first two years of college shuttling home to see my girlfriend, do laundry at my Mom’s and play in our rock band. TTU was known as a "suitcase college", where practically everyone packs up and leaves town for the weekend to go back where ever home was. I would later discover that all the cool kids stuck around and made the town home. After a couple of years of struggling as an engineering student, I finally got a co-op job working in Nashville with BellSouth Telecommunications. This was to be my big break into the industry from which a lifetime of genius would follow. Sadly, I knew I didn’t want to that job for a living after the very fist day, and I had to continue to do it for an entire year. The only good things to come out of that job were:

  • 1) I met my future wife that year.
  • B) I gained a reference point as to how miserable life could be so every day since has been an improvement, no matter what.

The following summer, I moved into a very tiny house with my friend from back in college, Jason Johnson. I also took a materials engineering course from Dr. Dallas G. Smith, which was taught under the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. It was the first class that I had taken as an engineering student that I was really good at. I really looked up to Dr. Smith, as well, and his attitude toward engineering and life were ones that made a great impression on me (and this all before he became the running legend he is today). I also decided that being a structural engineer was exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve never really thought about any other career since, not even when all my friends were becoming web designers1.

Angela & I after graduation

In the early Fall of 1998, I began dating the girl I had been waiting for a chance to go out with since I had fist met her two years earlier through a college friend in Nashville. Angela left for graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University a year later, and I decided it would be best to follow her. I had wanted to go to graduate school myself for a Master’s Degree, so I went to Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University. I spent just a little over 18 months there, and then moved to Richmond, VA to live with Angela. We got married in March of 2000. I took a job as a bridge engineer at URS Corporation. That job proved to be a great experience, because I got the chance to work on three very different and incredible projects:

  • A 75′ steel draw bridge over the Dismal Swamp Canal in Deep Creek, VA.
  • The replacement of the Pearl Harbor Memorial I-95 bridge over the Quinnipiac River in New Have, CT. This bridge is a extradosed, cable-stayed bridge. I worked on the steel alternate, which is the first design of its kind in the world.
  • The steel box girder fly-over ramps on the IH-10 & BW8 interchange (.pdf) on the KATY Freeway, just outside of Houston, TX. I the designer on approximately 1.2 miles of bridge on that job, which consisted of all the left-turning flyovers.

I recently left that job to pursue work in commercial structures design. That gets you up to about the beginning posts on this web site. The rest is in the blog, if you care to look up some articles in the archives. There are also a number of pages in here about some of my interests, so if you’ve read all this, then you should check those out, too.

Jason Coleman, January 2005

  1. September, 2009 – There is a certain amount of irony looking back at that statement four years later. I now work on websites a significant part of my time, both professionally and for fun. It also escaped how silly it was to write that on a webs site!