Brother Edward Coughlin, who died Tuesday morning after complications from heart surgery, led Siena College to successes in academic programming, enrollment and fundraising during his tenure.
Brother Edward Coughlin, who died Tuesday morning after complications from heart surgery, led Siena College to successes in academic programming, enrollment and fundraising during his tenure.

The Siena College community is mourning the sudden death of their beloved president, Brother Edward Coughlin.

Brother Coughlin, O.F.M., Ph.D., 71, died Tuesday morning following complications from non-emergency heart surgery at UR Medicine-Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Brother Coughlin -  affectionately known as Brother Ed - suffered a catastrophic stroke following the surgery July 23 for a congenital heart defect. 

““From my heart and from all of us in 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,”  Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger said in a message to the Siena community. 

“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.”

“Brother Ed was an amazing man, a great friar and great friend,” said Fr. Larry Anderson, O.F.M., campus chaplain at Siena College, who spoke to the media on campus Tuesday morning about the unexpected passing of his colleague and friend. “Our hearts are broken, but our faith tells us that he is at peace with God at this time.” 

Brother Coughlin was “very connected with the students, he was always in the dining hall, or a sports event. He was where the students were, and they appreciated that and they knew that he cared about them,” added Father Anderson, who also presided over a special memorial Mass for the Siena community Tuesday at the Sarazen Student Union.

John F. Murray '79, chair of the Board of Trustees, Margaret E. Madden, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs and interim president, Paul F. Dwyer '71, J.D., professor of business law and chair of faculty, and Zachary Coderre '20, student senate president, also spoke on Tuesday.

“He wasn't some distant figure at the top of the school’s hierarchy but rather a pillar of the Siena community,” said Coderre. “Brother Ed frequently would come into the dining hall to speak with students, he would always have an interest in what's going on in our lives.”

At the media briefing, Jason B. Rich, director of marketing and communications, relayed a message from Fr. Mark G. Reamer OFM, assistant to the president, who said “Brother Ed died as he lived: at peace with great serenity and love of his family and friars who have kept vigil with him this past week.”

“Father Mark spoke for all of us saying that Siena college has lost a strong and compassionate leader,” said Rich. “Personally, we friars have lost a cherished brother and loyal friend.”

Brother Coughlin had announced just in June 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 Brother Ed’s untimely and unexpected passing,” said Murray in a statement earlier Tuesday. “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.”

Madden was named acting president by the trustees at the start of Brother Coughlin's medical leave in June, and will now serve as interim president while Siena continues its presidential search.

“Brother 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.”

Brother Coughlin’s funeral and interment will be held at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, where he was an alumnus, trustee, professor and administrator before coming to Siena. On Saturday, Aug. 3, the Reception of the Body will be at 4 p.m. followed by the wake from 4-7 p.m. On Sunday, the wake will be from 1-6:30 p.m. with service at 6:30 p.m. The Mass of Resurrection will be Monday at 10:30 a.m. in the university's chapel. The burial will follow at the campus cemetery.

Siena will host a memorial service and celebration of his life in September.


He is survived by one brother, four sisters and several nieces and nephews.

Brother Coughlin 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. Brother Coughlin 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. Mullen. “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, Brother Coughlin 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 2018-19, 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 product, Brother Coughlin 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, Brother Coughlin 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.