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Gonzaga Community Remembers Late President Bernard Coughlin

Courtesy of Gonzaga University

The Gonzaga community said goodbye today [Friday] to its former longtime president, Father Bernard Coughlin. Coughlin died last month in California at the age of 97.

The university held a memorial service at St. Aloysius Church for the man many called Barney.

Father Bernard Coughlin served as Gonzaga’s president from 1974 to 1996. He came from St. Louis University, where he was a professor and dean. And he came to Spokane at a time when Gonzaga was this little Jesuit school with a mediocre basketball team.

“When he first came to Gonzaga as president he faced a big financial crisis, which was one of many. Watching Barney, he seemed to embody St. Ignatius’ great advice, ‘Let’s do the doable. Let’s do the doable,'" said Father Steve Kuder, who gave the sermon at Coughlin’s funeral mass.

During Coughlin’s 22 years as president, he extended the university’s tentacles. He served a term as chair of the Chamber of Commerce. And he led the university on a campus building spree. Several new academic buildings and residence halls went up under his tenure.

Current president Thayne McCulloh said Coughlin’s great strength was his ability to build relationships.

“Do you remember the power of his touch? How he would grab onto people by the hand and maintain that physical connection," McCulloh said. "He loved people. And he put people and his relationships not at the periphery, but at the center of his life, the center of his formation, the center of his work. For him, it was all about relationships.”

When Coughlin retired as president, he took on a new job as chancellor of the university. He did that for 20 years before retiring in 2016.