ROCHESTER, NY - 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.

Coughlin was an alumnus, trustee, professor and administrator at St. Bonaventure University before coming to Siena. 

He suffered a catastrophic stroke following an aortic dissection while undergoing the scheduled surgery on July 23 for a congenital heart defect. 

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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.”

Details of Br. Ed’s funeral and interment will be announced shortly. They are expected to 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.  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.

“Franciscan Brother. It was much more than a title in the life of Edward Coughlin - it was his identity,” said Fr. Kevin. “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.”

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.