With a palette of emotion, mostly of enthusiasm, promise, expectation, and joy – but also a note of sadness – the 2019-20 academic year began at Siena College and St. Bonaventure University, the Holy Name Province-sponsored institutions. Students began rolling onto the Loudonville, New York-based Siena campus the week before classes started on Sept. 3, and they arrived a little earlier on the campus of St. Bonaventure in the Allegany foothills of Western New York, which officially began on Aug. 26.
The Siena community is acclimating to life without their president Ed Coughlin, OFM, who died on July 30 due to complications from heart surgery. A memorial Mass will be celebrated in Ed’s honor on the Siena campus on Sept. 17, the day of the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi.
Students and faculty at Siena, which is located just outside of Albany, and St. Bonaventure are still mourning Ed’s death. His cheerful demeanor and academic acumen were cherished at both institutions because Ed, in addition to serving as Siena president, was a graduate of SBU, where he also spent more than 10 years on the staff. He was often good-naturedly harassed over his allegiance – especially at men’s basketball contests between the Saints and Bonnies.
The colleges expressed their affinity for Ed at the start of the 2019-20 session by informing students of the opportunity to donate in his memory. Before his funeral services, Ed’s family and the Province recommended that donations be made to advance the Order’s mission of the three Franciscan schools that Ed always said had provided a foundation and shaped his religious vocation – Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in Buffalo, St. Bonaventure University and Siena College.
At St. Bonaventure, donations should be made to The Franciscan Heritage Endowment, and at Siena, to The Br. F. Edward Coughlin, OFM Endowment to Advance Franciscan Values.
Ironically, shortly before his death, Ed had announced plans to step down as president when his contract expired in August 2020.
Hundreds of people left messages of condolence on Siena’s Facebook Page. The college has also received several tributes from higher education, political and religious leaders. The week following his passing, SCoop, the Siena e-newsletter, dedicated an entire edition to Ed. In addition, the weekly “Saints Go Marching” video digest was filled with students sharing their memories of Ed and what he brought to Siena. Students and employees also shared their favorite memories and photos, which will be part of the Sept. 17 campus memorial.
Recent news from the Franciscan schools located at the western and eastern sides of the state include updates about student welcomes, donations and new leaders. Photos of friars, students and staff can be found on the Facebook pages of St. Bonaventure University and WVCR 88.3 The Saint.
Around St. Bonaventure: Ceremonies, Community Spirit and Donations
Last month, St. Bonaventure welcomed more than 500 students into its class of 2023 with a traditional candlelight induction ceremony. The annual event, which took place Aug. 22 on the steps of Plassmann Hall, was followed by a block party. This kicked off a series of “Welcome Days 2019” events over a four-day span that concluded with a “day of involvement” on Aug. 25, when the newcomers were acclimated to campus organizations and activities. In between, the incoming students met with their peer coaches, who will help them through the fall semester on varied issues – from class registration to dining hall dietary concerns. The newcomers also attended presentations, activities and workshops on transitioning to college life, responsible drinking, and stereotypes and diversity. The new class got a taste of Franciscan values during summer orientation sessions when they were asked to bring school supplies that were donated to Saint’s Place in Rochester, N.Y. – a program that assists refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. from their war-torn countries. The donations were part of school packs provided to refugee children.
Students, faculty and staff attended an Aug. 30 campus rally to share what community means to them. The event’s purpose, according to a statement by Nichole Gonzalez, dean of students and chair of the President’s Committee on Equity and Inclusion, was to “very openly begin the conversation about respect, equity and inclusion in a celebratory way, not waiting for an incident to happen before we gather the community.” Participants shared not only what community means to them, but also what they need from the SBU community to feel welcomed and valued, and how the SBU community can collectively prevent hate from happening on campus. In a press release, Gonzalez said, “We want to give a voice to what people in the community need in order to feel valued, and what they don’t want to see happen in our community.”
Before the students arrived, a new friar joined the SBU administration. As of Aug. 19, Russel Murray, OFM, is the new vice president for mission integration. “I am extremely impressed with Fr. Russel and have tremendous faith that he will be able to work with me and our entire campus community to embed our Franciscan mission and university values in all that we do,” said SBU president Dennis DePerro, who established a Presidential Mission Commission in the fall of 2017. As part of his role, Russel, who until recently served as the Order’s general animator for missions, will be teaching theology at St. Bonaventure.
This summer, SBU received a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor in support of the institution’s School of Health Professions. The landmark donation represents the single largest gift in SBU history. It also highlighted the close of another successful year-long fundraising campaign for the university. According to an Aug. 1 announcement by SBU, the $5 million gift will help renovate Francis Hall as the future home of the School of Health Professions. In the announcement, the anonymous donor noted the importance of this academic initiative and the upward trajectory of the university as primary reasons for the donation.
On Sept. 5, Bonaventure announced its receipt of a $650,000 National Science Foundation Grant that will lead to greater research opportunities for undergraduate students at the university and STEM career training for teachers and students across Western New York. As part of the four-year grant, undergraduate students will investigate the mechanisms of disease resistance in plants.
In other news, St. Bonaventure has been named one of the nation’s “Best 385 Colleges” by The Princeton Review. According to a news release, SBU improved its national ranking by jumping from its 2018 position of No. 14 all the way to No. 5 on the “Lots of Race/Class Interaction” list – which assesses how easily and frequently culturally diverse students interact. In revamping its general education curriculum, SBU now requires first-year students to take a one-credit course examining issues of diversity in a contemporary context. The course allows students to engage in better-informed dialogue about current events and more actively as citizens of the modern world. The Princeton Review ranking comes a year after SBU was ranked No. 1 in New York and No. 2 in the North on U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 list of best regional university values, and 22nd (out of 197 institutions) on the magazine’s all-criteria ranking of best regional universities in the North.
Siena College updates: New leaders, programs and top job placement ranking
The Siena College Board of Trustees named Margaret Madden interim president of Siena in July after the death of Ed Coughlin. She had been serving as acting president at the start of Ed’s medical leave in June. Prior to that, Madden served on the Siena leadership team since 2015 as vice president for academic affairs and as a professor of psychology. Siena will continue its presidential search while she serves as interim. Madden is the first layperson and woman to hold the president’s position since the college was established in 1937. As a member of the leadership team, she has collaborated with faculty and administration officials to provide greater opportunities to Siena students through the development of eight new majors, an MBA, and several certificate programs. Madden, who will continue to lead Siena in achieving the goals outlined in its 2017-22 strategic plan, has engineered the creation and administration of new interdisciplinary programs at Siena, as well as promoted the development of more than 90 new online and hybrid courses.
John Murray Jr., a 1979 Siena graduate with a history of service to the college, has been named the new chair of the Board of Trustees. In an article in the summer issue of Siena News Magazine, Murray said, “I am deeply honored to be named chair… [and] as a Siena alumnus, I know firsthand what an excellent experience the college provides its students. I look forward to helping guide the college through the second half of its five-year strategic plan… and helping to provide a new generation of Siena students with the education for a lifetime.” Murray joined the Siena board in 2000 after serving on the board of associate trustees (now the board of advisors) from 1992 to 1999, during which he served as chair from 1997 to 1999. He is chairman and CEO of Rose & Kiernan Inc., and director of the Rose & Kiernan Charitable Foundation, which supports community programs and charities across the state.
The Saints are marching into the 2019-20 season with a new head coach of the men’s basketball program. Carmen Maciariello was named the 18th head coach in the program’s history, making him the first Siena alumnus in four decades to serve at the helm of the men’s hoops team. He graduated from Siena in 2001. His resumé includes 11 seasons as a Division I assistant coach, including most recently two years with Siena, where last year he helped the team to 17 wins and a second-place tie in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
At a rate of 95.13 percent, Siena College has the highest job placement rate of graduates than any other higher education institution in New York State. In addition to being No. 1 in its home state, Siena ranks 9th highest in the entire country when it comes to graduates finding employment, according to Zippia, a premier job/career search website that compiled data from the U.S. Department of Education’s “college scorecard” to identify the nation’s top colleges that best prepare students for the job market. Margaret Madden, the interim president, said the college was pleased but not surprised by the ranking. “A college education is an important investment, and one of the key returns on this investment is getting a job after graduation. We know that employers are well aware of the value of a Siena degree in hiring and advancing employees, and this study provides further evidence that investment in a Siena degree will reap long-term benefits,” Madden said in a press release issued by Siena’s communications department. Zippia’s findings can be found online.
Siena received state approval to offer a new graduate-level advanced certificate in cyber-security fraud and digital forensics starting this fall. The certificate will require four 3-credit courses whose content includes forensic analysis policy and procedures, forensic analytic tools, data recovery, investigation, and related subject matter. Chester Brearey, Siena’s associate professor of accountancy and director of the M.S. in accountancy and data with analytics programs, says there are fast-growing career opportunities in a number of fields for graduates with a background in cyber-security. In announcing the certificate on the college’s website, Brearey said, “Like DNA forensic scientists in the physical world, digital forensic analysts follow [digital] fingerprints to investigate [things like] identity theft, cyber-attacks, information security breaches, industrial espionage, and other crimes.” Siena plans to partner with international, regional and local accountancy firms and federal and state agencies to help combat cyber-crime.
A group of seniors from the Class of 2019 earned accolades from the New York State Senate for their work in anti-cyber-bullying. Before graduation last May, the eight seniors and Siena’s associate director of National Assessment for Service and Community Engagement received an honorary proclamation from the Senate for creating the AT&T/Siena College Upstander Program – an anti-cyber-bullying outreach initiative in which the Siena seniors visited more than 21 high schools and thousands of students throughout the state.
The recent summer editions of the Siena and St. Bonaventure magazines featured a variety of news.
– Research for this article was provided by Stephen Mangione and Jocelyn Thomas.
- “St. Bonaventure Prepares to Welcome 500 Freshmen into the Bona Family” – Aug. 16, 2019, SBU website
- “Siena College President Edward Coughlin Dies” – July 30, 2019, HNP Today
- “Inspiration, History, and Emotion Mark Commencement Ceremonies at SBU, Siena” – May 22, 2019, HNP Today
- “Bishop Timon -St. Jude High School Launches Franciscan Fund” – Jan. 2, 2013, HNP Today