In Memoriam: Ted Coghlin, Dedicated Alumnus and Renowned Community Leader

December 15, 2014

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Edwin B. (Ted) Coghlin Jr. '56, one of WPI's most dedicated graduates and a volunteer who helped shape the Worcester community as a civic, business, and philanthropic leader, died Dec. 10, 2014, at the age of 79.

Coghlin was one of nine members of his family to attend WPI over the course of four generations. He earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and honed his public service skills as president of the Tech Senate and the Student Christian Organization, and as a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. He was also a member of the Pi Delta Epsilon and Skull honor societies and he played on the football team.

After graduation, he devoted his professional life to the Coghlin Companies, the family enterprise founded in 1885 by his grandfather, John P. Coghlin. He joined the company in 1957 as an engineer and held many leadership positions over the years. At the time of his passing, he was treasurer of Coghlin Electrical Contractors and Network Services on Prescott Street in Worcester. Coghlin Companies, the local community, and WPI were the three prominent threads woven throughout his life.

Even with responsibilities to work and family, Coghlin remained true to his principles and his family's long-held ideal of altruism. Worcester, the city where he was born and raised, has been forever changed by his legacy of public service.

Knowing that a quality workforce was vital to the success of Coghlin Companies—and to the regional economy—he championed the construction of Worcester Technical High School. As chairman of the Worcester Vocational Schools Advisory Board and president of the Skyline Technical Fund, he secured over $4 million in donations, which helped leverage more than $20 million in matching funds.

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He is credited with establishing the high school's close ties with the local business community, and also facilitated collaborations between the school and WPI. In a written statement, Worcester Superintendent of Schools Melinda Boone also credits Coghlin's support of the school with its designation as a 2013 Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education and for the recognition it received from President Barack Obama, who spoke at the school's 2014 commencement ceremony. The school's former principal, Sheila Harrity, has called Coghlin the "Godfather" of Worcester Technical High School.

Coghlin's generous spirit spread far and wide. He worked loyally for causes dear to him: the Mohegan Council of the Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, and the United Way, to name a few. He served as president of the Central Massachusetts Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association and was a past president of the Mohegan Council of the Boy Scouts of America and of the Worcester Young Businessmen’s Association. He served as chairman of two school building committees in Shrewsbury, Mass., where he lived for many years with his family, and on the boards of Worcester Boys' Club, Worcester Science Center (now the EcoTarium), Mechanics Bank, Anna Maria College, and Central New England College. He was a Eucharistic minister at St. Mary's Church in Shrewsbury and a long-time Shrewsbury town meeting member.

Among the many civic awards he received over the years, he was celebrated as Shrewsbury's Man of the Year and in 2004 he received the Telegram & Gazette's Isaiah Thomas Award, given each year to a citizen who has substantially improved the quality of life in the Worcester area. His father received the same award in 1963. In recognition of his lifetime of service to the Boy Scouts, he was inducted into the New England Boy Scouts Hall of Fame in 2008.

Coghlin also worked tirelessly on behalf of WPI. Most notably, he served as chair of every one of his reunion committees, rallying his classmates to return to campus and to support their alma mater. Over the years, he served the WPI Alumni Association in many capacities: on the Class Board of Directors; as a Class Agent; as a member of the Alumni Association Citations Committee, selecting alumni to honor for their achievements; as an Annual Fund Board member, Leadership Gifts chairman, as Alumni Council representative; and as president of the Worcester County Alumni Club.

Ever since his days on the grid iron, he has remained an avid supporter of WPI athletics as a member of the Poly Club and the Athletic Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He also attended the WPI Athletics Banquet every May to present the John P. Coghlin Award in honor of his brother; the award honors a team manager for carrying out invaluable service for his or her team. In 1991 he received the Frank C. Harrington Award, which recognizes a distinguished contributor to WPI athletics over a significant period of time. The Alumni Association recognized Ted Coghlin with the Herbert F. Taylor Alumni Award for Distinguished Service to WPI in 1981 and, in 2008, with the Humanitarian Leadership Award, recognizing his civic contributions.

The Coghlin Lecture Hall in Salisbury Labs is named in memory of his father, Ted Coghlin Sr. '23, and his uncle, John W. Coghlin '19, a former WPI trustee. In addition to the John P. Coghlin Award, Ted Coghlin established the Edwin B. Coghlin '23 Award for Community Service, which is presented annually in memory of his father to recognize and support the good works of WPI students.

True to his nature, each December Coghlin organized a special holiday luncheon for his WPI classmates at Higgins House. This year was no different. The news of his passing, however, arrived on the very morning of this gathering. His classmates and his friends at WPI knew that Coghlin would have wanted the gathering to go on. And so friends gathered at Higgins House on December 11 and paused to remember the friend who was no longer with them.