Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Alum chosen to introduce the First Lady and decorate the White House for the holidays

  Alum chosen to introduce the First Lady and decorate the White House for the holidays

Jennifer Cole, a 1990 Hampton University graduate, started out the holiday season by introducing First Lady Michelle Obama on Nov. 28 at the press preview of the White House decorations. 

Jennifer Cole listens to First Lady Michelle Obama.
Cole was one of 80 volunteers selected to help spread the spirit of the season by decorating the White House for the holidays.  In her application to volunteer to decorate the White House, Cole spoke about being a military spouse.  

“I gave them what I thought were ordinary details about Don’s [Cole’s husband] years of service,” said Cole. “This is the fourth Christmas in 15 years that we will actually get to spend together and since he retired from the Air Force I have been looking for other ways to serve.”

From Nov. 23 -Nov. 27, Cole worked with other volunteers from across the country to prepare the White House for the holiday season. Cole’s team of volunteers were assigned several rooms including the East Entrance and the East Landing, where the tree dedicated to military families is located.

HU Alumnae Jennifer Cole, '90 and her husband Retired Col. Donald Cole
“It happens to be my favorite tree, I was assigned to make ornaments for that tree and it was a great honor since I am the daughter of a WWII veteran and the wife of an Air Force retiree with 30 years of service,” said Cole.

On the second day of volunteering, Cole was told about the press preview of the holiday decorations and was asked to introduce Mrs. Obama. “It was emotionally overwhelming!” she said.

Shortly before the press briefing, Cole, her husband and father had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Obama in the Blue Room and took a picture with her. “ She is everything you would imagine - warm, funny and grateful to meet those who have served our country,” said Cole. 

Cole delivered a funny, yet moving three-minute introduction speech and when Mrs. Obama arrived on stage, she hugged Cole and thanked her family for everything they’ve done for the country and for making the White House beautiful. 

Cole and her family truly enjoyed the experience. Hampton University roots run deep in her family. Her father, Rhomie L. Heck, Jr. is a 1952 Hampton graduate as well as her siblings Rhomie L. Heck III, '76, Julie A. Heck, '80 and Theodore Heck, '80. Her sister-in-law, Dr. Rosalynne Whitaker-Heck, is the assistant dean of academic affairs in the HU Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications and her stepson, Jonathan Cole is the graphic designer in the Office of University Relations. 

The White House Christmas 2012 special was featured on HGTV on Dec. 8. The special will run throughout the holiday season. Check HGTV White House Christmas 2012 for more information.    

 - Jalisa Stanislaus