Students and staff remember Siena President Brother Ed, dead at 71

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LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The president of Siena College died early Tuesday morning after suffering a catastrophic stroke during a scheduled heart surgery.

Members of the Siena community gathered to speak about the life of Brother Ed Coughlin. In his five years as Siena College president, they say he served with grace and compassion.

It was a somber day at Siena College. The flag flew at half-staff and a simple message on the sign said it all: “Remembering Brother Ed.” The 71 year old college president left a community in mourning.

“He was one of the nicest, kindest persons you’ll ever meet,” said Paul Dwyer, chair of faculty.

The Buffalo native had a long and distinguished career in Catholic higher education. He was at the top of the college hierarchy, yet he immersed himself in every day student life.

“He would like to come to the dining hall, come up to students, and ask them about their day,” said Zachary Coderre, student senate president.

He was gentle and soft-spoken, but a decisive decision maker.

“Very easy to talk to, not very easy to convince if he wasn’t in agreement with you,” said John Murray, chair of the Board of Trustees.

He was man of great faith who also knew how to have a good time.

“He loved to swim, he loved to cook on the grill, he loved just to being with his friends,” said Fr. Larry Anderson, campus chaplain.

Brought on as president in 2014, Brother Ed knew the challenges he faced.

“I think there are a lot of disruptions happening in higher education,” he said. He met those obstacles and achieved major accomplishments, including one of the largest incoming freshman classes ever, adding eight new bachelor’s degrees and an MBA, growing the college’s net assets by 35 million dollars, and partnering with the New York Times to track political polling. 

“Well, they’re hard shoes to fill,” said interim president, Dr. Margaret Madden.

For the first time ever, a woman will be at the helm of the college. Dr. Madden says she’ll work to continue Brother Ed’s initiatives, and she has the student body behind her.

“We will all rally around Dr. Madden and I think that we’ll continue the path Brother Ed set us on,” said student Zachary Coderre.

Brother Ed leaves behind a brother, four sisters, several nieces and nephews, and a new generation of leaders eager to carry on his legacy.

The college is planning a memorial for Brother Ed once the students return to campus. It’s set for September 17th.

In June, Coughlin had announced his plans to step down as president when his contract expired next year. He had been the President of Siena College since 2014.

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