Memories of Fr. Coughlin

The Gonzaga community responds

Thank you for sharing your memories, thoughts and prayers in these submissions to our website and on social media.

“We at St. Louis University owe a debt of gratitude to Fr. Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., for his service, and for his vision of a strong social work program here in the heart of St. Louis. We join Gonzaga in mourning the loss, and celebrating his life.”
–Dr. Fred P. Pestello, President and CEO of Saint Louis University

“Father Coughlin was an amazing man. I never had a bad interaction with him. My dad also has some great stories. He was truly wonderful and a complete embodiment of Gonzaga values. He will be missed.”
–Colin McQuilkin

“He will be missed dearly. My grandmother, Vi Knott, and Father Coughlin were good friends. That’s how I ended up at Gonzaga. My first year was a difficult one as I had lost my mother to cancer. He helped me get into the Florence program which was life changing for me and helped set me in a new direction in life. Thank you Father Coughlin. Thank you so very much for your kindness and understanding.”
–CeeCee Capotosto

“I still remember to this day when I first stepped foot on Gonzaga’s campus as a freshman during orientation and he was there welcoming everyone. It really imprinted on me how genuine and caring he really was to so many and yet he welcomed me and my family personally and graciously. Please rest easy and he will always be remembered so much.”
–Chris Rogers

“I met him several times during my years on campus. I have never met a more compassionate individual who engaged with everyone on such a personal level, yet was so busy and in demand. Thank you for embodying such a wonderful spirit. He will be missed.”
–Kip Kesgard

“Father Coughlin, Heaven’s doors are wide open for you. You did embody the love of Christ. Thank you for providing so many students with an education and spiritual experience of a lifetime. Your message of service to others truly impacted the course of my life.”
–Michele Calley Vallor

“I remember my dad, Henry (Hank) Swoboda, taking me in to meet him my very first year at GU, fall of 1986. Very genuine person with a very kind spirit. RIP, Father Coughlin.”
–Cathy Niblock

“As a GU undergraduate student, financing my way through a work study job I had a few one on one interactions with President Coughlin. He was always asking questions about students and how I enjoyed my time on campus. As an educational administrator, I have found few Presidents in the higher education arena that spend time with students as much as President Coughlin did. You lead with your heart. RIP.”
–Dr. Steven Meneses

“I remember him as Barney, but also as Father Coughlin. He was always a friend to my family and a great man.”
–Scott Wagner

“Phenomenal servant leader! Advocate of the best advice he received “do what’s right.” Fr. Coughlin was all about sharing God’s love. Blessings Father.”
–Cynthia M Reyes-Methvinr

“I remember those fireside chats with foreign students! May his soul Rest in Peace.”
–Sam Molefe

“I graduated in ’75 a year after Fr. Coughlin assumed the leadership of GU. I remember that up to then, each spring I would wonder if GU would be able to open in the fall. I don’t know if people realize how tenuous GU’s existence was in those years. Quite simply, Fr. Coughlin saved my alma mater.”
–Robert Klinger

“Father Coughlin was an extraordinary man of God who dedicated his life to education and bettering the lives of young people. He left his mark on me and I am grateful to have known him. Rest peacefully, Father Coughlin. Mission accomplished and a job well done. You have earned your eternal reward.”
–James Horner

“What a great leader and ambassador for Gonzaga for so many years. He truly shaped and brought the university back from tough times and laid the foundation for success that we are seeing today. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Matthew 25:23”
–Steve Lee

“Father Coughlin was President while I was there. He always seemed to have a smile and words of encouragement for the students.”
–Lance Jacobsen

“I had the pleasure of caring for Fr. Coughlin at Bea House before going to Los Gatos. Once in Los Gatos I visited him and enjoyed the walks he always took. He was always very appreciative of everything that was done for him. Always thanking his caregivers for the pleasure of being assisted. When in fact the caregivers are the ones who were blessed with having him in our lives. I will always remember his kind warm smile.”
–Diane Sparks

“Forever grateful for you and your service. We were lucky to have you at Gonzaga for so many years.”
–Dierdre Milano

“Such a force of nature. So proud to have worked for him in student health.”
–-Joy Luck

"Father lived such an extraordinary life and left such a profound legacy at Gonzaga and around the world. He greatly impacted each and every person he met with his kindness, sense of humor and warm smile. My dad first met Father years ago when he served on the Gonzaga Board of Regents and chaired the Great Teachers program. He talked about his dear friend Father Barney often. I became acquainted with Father recently while caring for my dad at the end of his life. Father would visit dad and we often met for lunch at the Jesuit House or at a local restaurant. Those lunch dates were filled with great conversations and laughter. After my dad passed away and Father moved to Los Gatos, we stayed in touch with phone calls and written notes. He always made me smile. What a gift he was to all who knew him! I am forever grateful and left with such fond memories of his friendship. May he Rest In Peace."
–Mollie Ogle Ressa

"I both attended and worked at Gonzaga during Father Coughlin's tenure. He was an amazing President and I feel helped to put and keep Gonzaga on the map and promote the many facets of the university. He will be missed. God bless."
–Paulette Pettis

"... Father Coughlin was a man who made an incredible impact in my life and I am sure thousands upon thousands more in his endeavors. I married his Great Niece (Courtney Coughlin), the daughter of his brother's son (Shane Coughlin) who he has now rejoined up in Heaven, and through this union, I got to experience Barney in a way many didn't. I received the love he poured out on people both in times of crisis and peace. Barney blessed our wedding, was there for the birth of our firstborn child and so much more. He showed compassion like very few do, and stepped up for me putting himself on the line professionally when I desperately needed someone in my corner. He didn't judge or condemn, he loved and forgave. There is zero question in my mind that had I not crossed paths with Barney that my life would be anywhere as positive as it is. I will miss you, and will never forget the much-needed push you gave me when I needed to see some hope. You were an excellent example of living the Word of God out, and you will be greatly missed by so many. RIP Father Coughlin."
–Jeremy Misterek

"He is one of my favorite memories of my time at GU; I often wondered how he got anything done, given his habit of wandering the halls and the lawns frequently, enjoying every short conversation he had on those strolls. Nobody smiled more at GU than he did. He lived a remarkable, full life, and he's now resting at God's feet in Heaven."
–Michael Purser

"It is with such great sadness that I write these memories. Fr. Coughlin was such a wonderful, kind man. He married my husband and I and then baptized our two beautiful girls. I will always remember him with a smile on his face and a very kind word for all. He will be missed."
–Vicky & Rick Shanaman

"Fr. Coughlin lived cura personalis. He always made you feel special anytime he met you, as though you were the only person in the room. Lived his life simply, lovingly, and his love for his vocation was evident. A special Jesuit that I will never forget."
–Acacia Komelasky 

"I sometimes walk the GU campus on the weekends. One time, while walking, I came across Father. He asked me to stop. He took the time to ask my name and we talked a while. Father was great friends with my father-in-law. I was so impressed at his kindness and Christ-like demeanor. God bless you father. I know you are in heaven with my family. You will be a Zag forever! Your eternally grateful friend, Bob Moore."
–Robert Moore

"When Fr. retired and he had a heart attack. I sent him a Gonzaga post card every week while he recovered. He loved it! and when he got back he told me those Gonzaga postcards made him heal quicker to get back to us. He was priceless."
–Lori Leonard

"I graduated in 1984 after two years at GU with a class of about 600. I remember that Fr. Coughlin would always walk up and say hi and ask my names until he could remember it without a reminder. I learned later that he was making a point of learning every students first name so when he congratulated them at their graduation, he knew they knew he meant it. He was a treasure and his death is a great loss."
–Virginia Novak

"When I think of Fr. Coughlin, the first thing that comes to mind is his kind blue eyes and the way he would hold onto your hand after shaking it. He was always quick to give a smile and a warm greeting. Seeing him around campus would always brighten my day and I feel honored that I knew him."
–Geneva Finley

"Condolences to his family, especially his twin nieces I attended GU with. He was always kind and I never really appreciated it at the time, taking him for granted, but he was always accessible, sitting with students in the cafeteria or chatting in the halls."
–Mary Anne Clarke

"I came from Cd'A and met with him in 1990 at my age of 30. I came to the university thinking there was no way I could pay for such a prestigious, private school. I was asked by admissions if I would like to meet with Father/President Coughlin. I said, "Oh my yes thank you!" One of my first questions, "Do you have to be Catholic to attend?" "Oh my goodness no, we have enough Catholics here!" was Father Coughlin's response. "We have over 88 religions attending here!" I loved him from the beginning. He made me feel so comfortable and gave me hope that I was good enough for GU. In 1993 I obtained my BA in Business, Operations Mgmt. (Thank you Dean Anderson, who taught all my management courses). I have a successful career and personal life, as I met my husband thru my first job after graduation. RIP and thank you for your warmth, kindness, encouragement and love of God and students. You will always be in my heart."
–Sandi Sannes

"Father Coughlin was the reason I chose Gonzaga! I met him at my father's dental office and he made me feel like the most important person in the world. I loved him instantly. While at Gonzaga, I was always welcome to visit him in his office. He always had time for me. He married my husband and me at St. Al's and provided a blessed ceremony and many words of wisdom. I was so happy to introduce him to by sons! What an amazing man!!"
–Natalie McKenna

"I was fortunate to be on the committee that interviewed and selected him as president in 1974. He was professional, approachable, warm, calm and genuine. These were attributes that helped make him the great man and president that he was. He made all the world he touched a better place."
–Larry Goulet

"Father Coughlin was a fixture in our lives for as long as I can remember. My father, Don, held him in such high esteem, yet I know they also, butted heads from time to time while accomplishing their mission of making Gonzaga the best it could be. Imagine that... a Croat and an Irishman butting heads. Dad's last years were spent with Father, always going out to dinner with their buddies. Dad lost a bit of his soul when Father retired to Los Gatos recently. They were in every sense, brothers, friends, confidants, anchors for each other. God bless Father Barney. Dad has organized a welcoming event, EVERYONE is there, done in the fashion only a Zag can achieve!"
–Donna Herak Bock

"I was blessed beyond words to have Barney as a Great Uncle who felt more like a grandpa and friend. To share such quality time with him during my college years - a time of questioning, searching and challenging - provided me with a sense of home away from home. I truly felt comfortable asking him anything. What I cherish most about him (aside from his purely loving nature) is his wonderful sense of humor. The room lit up when he laughed. I'm sure you are taking long walks around Heaven's campus now. :) I love you so much, Uncle Barney. Until we meet again."
–Cara Coughlin

"Thank you Fr. Coughlin for my first communion in the Catholic Church!"
–Margy West

"If it were not for Fr. Coughlin, I would not have been able to attend Gonzaga. I will be forever grateful for that small action on his part."
–Cam Sylvester

"I worked in the President's office during his tenure and my time at GU. A loving, kind, wonderful Priest and Leader. May he Rest In Peace."
–Leslea Pickle

"Fr. Coughlin made it possible for me and my brother Matthew to attend Gonzaga University. In 1974 he invited me to GU as a seminarian at Bishop White Seminary at no cost to me. In 1982, he awarded me a Presidential Scholarship so that I could take a Masters Degree in Education. After two years at GU, my brother Matthew went on to win the coveted Ford Foundation Scholarship at NYU Film School. This led to a successful career in the film industry. None of this would have been possible without Fr. Coughlin's generosity. We are forever grateful for his generosity and the loving care he showed us over the years. His door was always open; his love for the students of GU is legendary. He was and will forever be a blessing to me, my brother Matthew, and many, many others. We will miss you, Father Coughlin, but we will never, never forget you! God bless you my friend."
–Anthony Boccaccio