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Fr. Bernard Coughlin, S.J.: President, Priest, Scholar, Civic Leader, Friend: Case 1: Introduction

Case 1: Introduction

In 1974 Gonzaga University, a small, financially struggling school, was in need of a new president. Enrollment and endowment funds were down; and the school was in debt. For the first time in the university’s recent history, an ‘outsider’ was considered to assume the presidency. Fr. Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., previously the Dean of the School of Social Service at Saint Louis University, accepted the position during this time of instability.  During his 22 years serving as president, the university saw unprecedented growth in terms of finances, campus size, student enrollment, and academic reputation.

Even considering these impressive achievements, Coughlin was much more than just a university president. This exhibit shows the multi-dimensional life of one of Gonzaga’s most devoted administrator and illustrates how his role as a priest, scholar, civic leader, and friend to the community influenced his success as president. 

Charcoal portrait, Bernard Coughlin, about 1964

“Value Orientation in Social Welfare,” by Bernard Coughlin, Social Welfare Forum, 1967 (1969 reprint)

Fr. Bernard J. Coughlin with Presidential Medallion, 1974.

Coughlin's Presidential Medallion, worn at inauguration in October 1974

The Presidential Medallion was worn as part of the president’s academic attire at ceremonial occasions such as commencement and convocations.  Its design included the University’s seal.  There are six disks on the chain representing the six schools and colleges at Gonzaga.  Due to its heavy weight, Fr. Coughlin did not wear this medallion many times after the inauguration. New smaller medallions were created for succeeding presidents.

"Gonzaga Gains New President, Father Coughlin Respects Students' Views." Spires, 1975

To cover the activities around the inauguration of Fr. Coughlin, the Spires yearbook used two pages.

Fr. Coughlin with Fr. Arthur Dussault on Dussault's 80th birthday, 1984

Coughlin poses with Fr. Arthur Dussault, S.J. also known as “Mr. Gonzaga” because of Fr. Art’s long career with the university.

Fr. Bernard Coughlin with Regents and Trustees, Gonzaga Commencement, May 1987

Left to right, first row: Richard J. O’Neill, Fr. Coughlin, John E. Clute; Second row: Edgar Fitzgerald, John E. Andrew, The Very Reverend Richard Coombs, Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, Elizabeth Hanson, Dennis T. Richardson; Third row: Margaret S. Gose, Colleen Meighan, T. Jerry Greenan, James R. Jundt, Edith M. Weakly; Fourth row: Patrick J. West, Michael E. Doohan, Stanton K. Hooper, George J Atwater III, John L. Aram. Harry F. Magnuson.

"Coughlin resumes duties with new perspective on GU's future," Gonzaga Bulletin, December 6, 1991

This article, written after Coughlin returned from a sabbatical in Europe, details the goals he held during a very productive period of his presidency. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gonzaga’s campus expanded under Coughlin’s leadership. His sabbatical to Europe provided a needed rest and reflection of new ideas before he returned to work.

Honorary degree “Doctor of Humanities’ presented to Bernard J. Coughlin by Seattle University, June, 1994

Fr. Coughlin received an honorary degree in 1994 from Seattle University in recognition of his outstanding leadership as Gonzaga’s President.

Award presented to Fr. Coughlin by the Boy Scouts Inland Northwest Council, February 4, 1995

Fr. Coughlin taking a selfie with Gonzaga employees, July 2016 Left to right: Anji Mertens, Jennifer Klein, Fr. Coughlin, Darren Owsley, and Brenda Warrington.

Fr. Coughlin always enjoyed chatting with Gonzaga colleagues during his walks around campus.

Fr. Bernard Coughlin speaking from a podium, no date