Siena College President Brother Edward Coughlin died early this morning at the age of 71, after complications from non-emergency heart surgery in Rochester.
The college says Coughlin suffered a catastrophic stroke July 23rd while undergoing the surgery at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester to correct a congenital heart defect. Siena College spokeswoman Lisa Witkowski says the private liberal arts college in Loudonville is in mourning. "Brother Ed was a very intelligent and very gracious individual. He was also a very humble man with a terriffic sense of humor. He will truly be missed at Siena. And at this stage we are sharing the word with our community and are processing the news.”
In October 2015, Coughlin was officially inaugurated as Siena's 11th president after spending three years as a trustee. He became Interim President in August 2014 when Father Kevin Mullen stepped down. When he took over, Coughlin said the college should be relevant, accessible and affordable. "At the same time, I deeply believe in the Franciscan tradition and its valuing of education, not only in terms of preparing people to do well in the world of work, but also to be good people."
Then-Senior Patrick Madden was Siena College's Senate President in 2015: "The day he stepped on campus we could tell there's something different about this guy and we liked him a lot. You know Brother Ed is one of the most outgoing presidents I've seen here at the college. He loves to get to know the students, interacts with us really well, eats lunch with us every day of the week. Really devoted to making sure the students' voice is heard, making sure that he can do everything he can for us. Down to earth guy, lotta fun to be around."
Coughlin, a Buffalo native, was involved in Franciscan higher education for over 45 years. "Well I love the fact that Siena talks about being a student-centered institution and I'd like to model that. I quite frankly enjoy the students, I like to have lunch with them in the dining hall, I enjoy the fact that they know me and recognize me and say hello to me and want to talk to me and walk with me. I'm very honored by their desire to kinda get a picture with me or have a conversation with me.”
A lay friar, Coughlin was the first non-cleric to lead Siena. Coughlin’s mother, Margaret, attended his installation ceremony. "He always wanted to be, since he was in high school, always wanted to be a friar. But I didn't think it would go this far. Something you never dream of, I guess."
Before his stroke, Coughlin had announced he was planning to step down when his current contract ends in August 2020.
Witkowski says a funeral is being planned at St. Bonaventure University, where Coughlin was an alumnus and professor before coming to Siena. She says Siena College will host a memorial service once students return in September.