LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — After a year in the position and several decades in Franciscan and academic leadership roles, F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, was inaugurated as president of Siena College. He was officially invested as the 11th leader of the school on Oct. 2 at a ceremony in the Alumni Recreation Center, surrounded and supported by friends, family, friars and colleagues.
The event, held at the start of Siena’s commemoration of the feast of St. Francis, used as its theme “Embracing What Is Ours to Do.”
In his remarks, Ed recognized and thanked the alumni and students as he spoke about the importance of following the spirit in which the early Franciscan masters lived.
“The mission of Siena College challenges us today to live a values-centered life,” he said. “Let us all fully embrace what is ours to do.”
Edward, who succeeded Kevin Mullen, OFM, in the position when Kevin was elected Provincial Minister last year, is the first lay brother in the role. He joined the Franciscan Order in 1970 and professed his final vows in 1974.
“It was nice to nice to have my family as well as friends from all parts of my life together for the celebration,” said Ed.
The South Buffalo native met the Franciscans early in his life while attending Bishop Timon High School, the boys’ school founded by friars in 1946. He graduated in 1970 from St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., with a BA in sociology. Ed holds a master’s degree from Boston College and a Ph. D. from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
A psychologist by training, Ed served in a variety of roles before coming to the Loudonville campus. He was a Provincial Councilor for 13 years, Provincial Secretary from 1996 to 2005, a faculty member and dean of the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure, and vice president for the Franciscan Mission at SBU from 2005 to 2014. He has also served as the Province’s director of initial formation and director of pre-novitiate formation, and represented the Province at the Order’s extraordinary General Chapter in Assisi in 2006. In addition, Ed has authored more than 20 articles, has led retreats and pilgrimages, has served as an organizational consultant and has presented at academic and pastoral conferences in the United States and abroad.
Ed was named president of Siena in November 2014 after serving for several months as interim president. The inauguration’s date was chosen to accommodate the schedules of those involved and to synchronize with the feast of Francis.
After spending most of his Franciscan life in Western New York, Ed is adapting to his new home. “It’s been a steep learning curve,” he said in an interview aired the night before the inauguration.
Energy and Commitment
“Ed brings many needed gifts to the office of the presidency at Siena,” said Kenneth Himes, OFM, ‘71, in the event’s program. Along with his extensive administrative experience, Ed “has the energy and enthusiasm of a person half his age and the spirituality and vision of a genuine Franciscan.”
Beneath banners of St. Francis and St. Clare, people affiliated with the college and with the friars spoke about Ed’s talents, spirit and background.
Bruce Eelman, representing Siena’s faculty, said, “Ed’s deep faith and commitment to students will serve him well.”
A student, Patrick Madden, who presented Ed with a tapestry of the Blessed Mother, said, “Br. Ed exudes the Franciscan feeling of relationship. Your devotion to this college is unrivaled.”
Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, president of St. Bonaventure where Ed served on the cabinet for nine years, said, “no one loves the Franciscan tradition more than F. Edward Coughlin.”
Before an invocation by Albany’s Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, delegates representing more than 40 colleges and universities processed into the ARC. Three alumni marshals were Ed’s relatives: a sister, a brother-in-law and a niece.
As the festivities began, Mark Reamer, OFM, master of ceremonies, introduced Siena’s living past presidents: Hugh Hines, OFM, of Boston, who served from 1976 to 1989, William McConville, OFM, of Durham, N.C., who served 1989 to 1996, Kevin Mackin, OFM, of St. Petersburg, Fla., 1996 to 2007, and Kevin Mullen, who served from 2007 until summer 2014.
Sr. Mary Elizabeth Ingham, CSJ, a scholar in medieval philosophy and the Franciscan tradition, was given an honorary doctor of humane letters. She is a professor of philosophical theology at the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, Calif., and serves as a trustee at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where she taught for 24 years. The previous day, Sr. Mary Elizabeth spoke at a Siena symposium titled “Siena’s Promise: Liberal Education in the Catholic Franciscan Tradition.”
History and Transformation
Several symbols of the heritage of the 78-year-old college were utilized for the inauguration.
Siena’s mace, with the monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus, and the presidential medallion were visible at the ceremony. Descriptions of the academic garments as well as the history of the college were included in the program that was distributed with a commemorative prayer card to attendees.
Two songs with special meaning to Ed were performed by Siena vocal groups. The first, “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon, was used, Ed said, because of its “great energy and spirit looking forward.” The second, “Standing on the Shoulders” by Joyce Johnson Rouse, with which Ed became familiar during the celebration of SBU’s 150th anniversary, was selected because it says “much about carrying forward the tradition with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for those who have gone before us, playing a small role in a much bigger story.”
“The lyrics from that song were included in the program as a reminder of Br. Ed’s promise to all of us based on those who have gone before him,” said Kate Kaufman Burns, Siena’s director of liturgical arts.
The ceremony concluded with a benediction by Kevin Mullen, who said, “May we challenge this community to stay united. May Br. Ed’s leadership encourage this community so we may be agents of transformation.”
Both Kevin and Mark acknowledged Ed’s mother, 91-year-old Margaret, who traveled from Buffalo with other members of the Coughlin family and, as was mentioned, “without whom this event would not be possible.”
Ed’s sister Sheila Pingelski, a Siena graduate, expressed what she and the other members of Ed’s family are feeling.
“We have all been in awe of what his new role as president means for him and for all of us in the family,” she said, mentioning that that because of her brother’s full schedule, Ed was not able to be at the family’s summer cottage on the Coughlins’ final weekend there. “Though we were disappointed, we knew he needed to be at Siena doing what needed to be done.”
“Siena feels like home for us and we hope it feels like home for him,” said Pingelski, who graduated in 1985, of the attitude of her husband and niece.
The Coughlin family refers to Ed’s new role as his “Sienaventure” because of the connection that the new president has to both of the Province-sponsored colleges.
Photos taken at the inauguration festivities – including a reception afterward – can be found on Siena College’s website.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Siena College Inaugurates Kevin Mullen as President” – Oct. 10, 2007, HNP Today
- “Five Questions at Casey’s with Br. Ed Coughlin” – December 2014, Siena College
- “Edward Coughlin Releases Lecture Series on St. Francis” — Feb. 19, 2014, HNP Today
- “Bishop Timon-St Jude High School Launches Franciscan Fund” – Jan. 2, 2013, HNP Today