Siena College President Br. F. Edward Coughlin, O.F.M., Ph.D., 71, died July 30 following complications from non-emergency heart surgery at UR Medicine – Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
He suffered a catastrophic stroke following an aortic dissection while undergoing the scheduled surgery on July 23 for a congenital heart defect.
Br. Ed, as he was known by the Siena community, had announced only last month that he planned to step down as president when his contract expired in August 2020.
“The entire Siena College community is shocked and deeply saddened at Br. Ed’s untimely and unexpected passing,” said John F. Murray ’79, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees. “He served Siena with distinction and with a heartfelt commitment to the Franciscan ideals that governed his life and the life of the College. He set an extraordinary example of servant leadership for our community, and we extend our condolences to his family and to the Franciscan friars of the Holy Name Province.”
Margaret E. Madden, Ph.D., Siena’s vice president for academic affairs, was named acting president by the trustees at the start of Br. Ed’s medical leave in June. She will now serve as interim president while Siena continues its presidential search.
“Br. Ed led Siena with grace and humility, and he will be deeply missed by our faculty, students and staff,” said Madden. “His influence on Siena was profound. He was one of the kindest and most trustworthy people I have ever worked with. I feel fortunate that he was part of my professional and personal life, and I shall always cherish his mentorship, insight, and good humor.”
Br. Ed’s funeral and interment will be held at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure (Allegany), N.Y., where he was an alumnus, trustee, professor and administrator before coming to Siena. The wake and Mass of Resurrection will be held in the university’s chapel August 3-4, with burial to follow in the campus cemetery August 5.
In lieu of flowers, Br. Ed’s family and the friars of the Holy Name Province suggest donations be made to advance the Franciscan mission of one of the three Franciscan schools that helped form and shape Br. Ed’s life: Timon High School, Buffalo; St. Bonaventure University, or Siena College. At Siena donations will go to The Br. F. Edward Coughlin, OFM Endowment to Advance Franciscan Values at Siena College.
Siena will host a memorial service and celebration of his life in September, after students return to campus for the new academic year.
He is survived by one brother, four sisters and several nieces and nephews.
Br. Ed was named interim president of the College in August 2014, when his predecessor, the Very Rev. Kevin J. Mullen, O.F.M. '75, was elected to lead the Franciscan friars of the Holy Name Province. Br. Ed was officially appointed the 11th president that November, and was formally inaugurated in a campus ceremony in October 2015.
During his five years in office, Br. Ed oversaw marked successes in new academic programming, enrollment and marketing, fundraising and facility enhancement:
- Siena is on track this fall to enroll one of the largest freshman classes in its history, with more than 800 incoming students.
- The College introduced – and then expanded – the St. Francis Scholarship to ensure greater socioeconomic diversity among its student body.
- Eight new majors and an MBA have been added in the past five years, more additions to academic programming than in any period since the founding of the College.
- Net total assets have grown by more than $35 million since 2013, raising the endowment to more than $130 million. The College experienced its largest non-campaign fundraising year ever in 2018-2019, with gifts totaling more than $10 million.
- The Siena College Research Institute formed a groundbreaking partnership with The New York Times to track real-time political polling; the College opened the Breyo Observatory – which houses the third largest telescope in New York; and completed a $13.5 million renovation of the athletics facilities.
A Buffalo, N.Y. native, Br. Ed had a distinguished career in Catholic higher education. At the time of his appointment as interim president, he was a Siena trustee and vice-president for Franciscan mission at his alma mater, St. Bonaventure. He served twice as director of St. Bonaventure’s Franciscan Institute where he oversaw the research program’s academic course offerings and extensive publications, and was a member of the Institute’s summer faculty.
Author of more than 20 articles and book reviews, Br. Ed held a doctorate from the Catholic University of America, a master’s from Boston College and a bachelor’s from St. Bonaventure. He presented at academic and pastoral conferences across the United States and around the world, from New Jersey to Texas, Ireland to Japan and Bolivia to Zambia. He served on numerous boards of directors and trustees, including those of Siena, St. Bonaventure University, Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in Buffalo and St. Francis Friends of the Poor Foundation in New York City.
Siena College is a private, co-educational liberal arts college in the Franciscan and Catholic tradition, founded in 1937. Siena is committed to offering the Education for a Lifetime for a new generation of leaders eager to create a more just, peaceful and humane world. This education empowers them through a transformative journey of intellectual, spiritual and personal discovery.
“Franciscan Brother. It was much more than a title in the life of Edward Coughlin - it was his identity. He was a Franciscan Brother to all. Whether meeting him for the first time or renewing a long-standing relationship, Ed was your ‘brother’. Like St. Francis, he met you as an equal and immediately affirmed your dignity and worth. As a brother, he worked hard to advance your well-being. We will dearly miss our Brother Ed Coughlin, but if we follow his good example, his legacy will live on and continue to transform our world.” - Former Siena President and Provincial of Holy Name Province Fr. Kevin Mullen, O.F.M., Ph.D., '75
“Siena College has lost a strong and compassionate leader, the Franciscan world has lost a great scholar of the Franciscan intellectual tradition, and most personally, we Friars have lost a cherished brother and loyal friend. More than anyone I know, Ed preached the gospel of Jesus Christ by the way he lived his life. He will be greatly missed in our friary and throughout campus.” - Fr. Mark Reamer '83, O.F.M., D. Min., guardian of Siena’s friary and vice president for Franciscan mission
"On behalf of the student body, I’d like to extend our condolences to Br. Ed’s family, loved ones, and fellow friars of the Holy Name Province. Br. Ed has meant a lot to me personally and to the students here at Siena. He was not some distant figure at the top of the school hierarchy, but rather a pillar of the Siena community who would frequently take time out of his day to come to the dining hall and talk to students. He always took an interest in what was going on in our lives. Br. Ed’s passion for Siena and his willingness to listen to student concerns earned him my deepest respect. I know that I speak for the student body when I say that Br. Ed will always be a Saint to us." - Zachary Coderre '20, Student Senate President
"President Stefanco was proud to work alongside him as higher education leaders in the Capital Region. We appreciated his support and his presence at many of our events. Please keep all who knew and loved Brother Ed in your prayers as we all mourn his passing." - President Carolyn J. Stefanco, St. Rose College
"UAlbany sends its deepest condolences to the Siena College community on the loss of Brother Ed Coughlin. He was a wonderful and compassionate leader; his passing is a great loss for our community. It was truly an honor to know and to count Brother Ed as a friend and a colleague." - President Havidán Rodríguez, University at Albany
"I’m saddened by the tragic passing of Brother Ed. I’m praying for Siena College and for everyone who knew and loved him." - Chuck Schumer, United States Senator for New York
"From my heart and the priests and faithful of the Diocese of Albany, we extend our love and gratitude to Brother Ed's family, to the Siena community, and to all the friars for the gift of Brother Ed's presence among us. With you we pray for Brother Ed's safe passage to our eternal home where no tear clouds the eyes of those who in this life sought the face of God. May Brother Ed rest in the peace of the Lord for whom he lived his life and continue to bring us all closer to the One he led us to while among us — this side of heaven. Brother Ed was a true servant-leader." -Bishop Scharfenberger, Diocese of Albany
"Brother Ed was a lion in the fields of education & spirituality. My thoughts & prayers are w/ his family, loved ones & the entire Siena College community as they cope w/ the untimely loss of such an extraordinary leader." - Dan McCoy, Albany County Executive
"Brother Ed had a compelling wit, a keen mind and a compassionate heart. The loss is enormous to both Siena College and the greater Capital District. Personally, I have lost a highly respected friend." - Neil Breslin, New York State Senator (D-44)
"Brother Ed was a dear friend who led with great integrity on behalf of the common good. A true champion of higher education, he spoke with passion about the benefits of an education based in faith to enable students and alumni to make the world a better place. Humble and authentic, he encouraged his faculty and the broader community to address contemporary challenges in order to serve families. All of us at Le Moyne share your grief - the Catholic higher education community has lost a champion, friend and selfless leader."- President Linda M. LeMura, Le Moyne College
"The Maria community offers our deep sympathy and prayers to the friends, family, students, and confreres of Brother Edward Coughlin. I was blessed to know Brother Ed through our shared leadership roles in Catholic higher education. He was a man of great kindness, intelligence, quiet grace, and deep concern for his students. We are united with Siena in our shared grief and sadness at this time." - President Thomas J. Gamble, Maria College
"Br. Ed was a strong champion of the value of the liberal arts education, and he also embodied the finest traditions of Franciscan and Catholic service. His legacy will live on at Siena and far beyond. At a time when our nation and the world demands Br. Ed’s brand of leadership, a generation of students are following his example to address some of the most challenging issues of our time. At Union, we join the Siena College community in mourning the loss of a great leader and in following his fine example of service."- President David R. Harris, Union College
“He was a great friend, a wise and cherished colleague and a model religious. God has surely welcomed him home with open arms.” - Father Joseph McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University
“This is such a profoundly sad day, not only for the Siena and St. Bonaventure families, but for the entire brotherhood of Franciscan friars. Br. Ed was a mentor, a tremendous friend and colleague to lean on, both for advice and support, in my time here as president. Beyond that, he was simply a remarkable human being, a wise and gentle spirit who lived each day the Franciscan ideals that make institutions like St. Bonaventure and Siena so special.” - President Dennis R. DePerro, Ed.D., St. Bonaventure University
"Br. Ed was a well-known presence in Catholic higher education and many of you undoubtedly knew him personally, or through this writings or the incredible legacy he left at Siena College and, for much of his life, at St. Bonaventure University. Br. Ed was a frequent attendee at the ACCU Annual Meeting and served as a presenter during the conference earlier this year, evidence of his vast wisdom and generous spirit. Please join me in praying for him, his brother Franciscans, and for the Siena and St. Bonaventure communities at this difficult time." - Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
“The MAAC member schools and staffs are mourning the passing of our friend and colleague Bro. Edward Coughlin, OFM. Bro. Ed was well regarded as a quiet leader with strong opinions on how to better treat the conference’s student-athletes. He expected strong ethics from our athletic administrators and coaches and that the MAAC raise the awareness of its positive message of a conference dedicated to excellence in athletics and academics. On a personal note, I will miss his friendship and guidance, and his quick quips about fans, coaches and commissioners who run college athletics. The biggest loss of his passing will be to the Siena College community and his family, particularly the student-athletes whose efforts he loved to witness and support, no matter the results.” - Richard J. Ensor, MAAC Commissioner
"The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) staff and board members mourn the recent passing of Br. Ed Coughlin, OFM. Ed was a model of sincere Franciscan living, with his engaging smile, good humor and humble, welcoming presence. He has gifted Siena College, St. Bonaventure University and the whole Franciscan family through the years with his presence, his leadership and commitment to education and promoting Franciscan values. Our prayers go out to his family, the friars of Holy Name Province, to the faculty and students of Siena College and St. Bonaventure University and to all who called Ed their brother and friend. We pray in gratitude to God for Ed’s life and gospel witness. May his spirit continue to inspire us." - Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF, Franciscan Action Network