Dr. Philippa Coughlan, Director and Founder of the Wesleyan Office of Behavioral Health for Students (OBHS), passed away on March 17 at the age of 75. She died in Middlesex Hospital after a brief illness.

Born in Boston, Mass., Coughlan attended Boston University and received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since founding the OBHS in the 1970s, Dr. Coughlan has overseen its expansion over the last 40 years into becoming a center that provides therapy and counseling to any students who request it. Currently, the OBHS has two full-time therapists and three part-time therapists.

“Many generations of Wesleyan students benefited from [Dr. Coughlan’s] professional skills, diligent work, and caring support,” wrote Dean Mike Whaley in an email to the community. “Under her guidance, the office expanded to meet the substantial increases in both the number of students seeking assistance and the complexity of the issues those students present.”

Dr. Coughlan’s years of service at the University were well remembered by her coworkers at OBHS.

“Since Dr. Coughlan started our service over forty years ago she has lived through various changes in administration and has tirelessly championed the service to meet the ever increasing demands and utilization rates presented by incoming generations of students,” Staff Psychologist at OBHS Larry Antosz wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “Being an academic and clinician, Dr. Coughlan seamlessly melded our professional services into the overall educational mission of Wesleyan. So it is second nature for us to find an educational component in all of our contacts with students. To work closely with her for so long it is impossible not to share her commitment for community and public service and see that as an essential part of the role of a professional.”

Dr. Coughlan also worked at the Chair of the Connecticut Board of Mental Health and the Addiction Services Psychiatry Department of the Yale University School of Medicine  for eight years. She also served as the Chair of the committee that was responsible for the planning and building of the Freeman Athletic Center. Her publications included work on psychotherapy, mental retardation and sexual violence.

A funeral mass was held for Dr. Coughlan on March 21 in New York City. Father Hal Weidner, the Catholic Chaplain of the Wesleyan Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, plans to hold the April 3 Sunday mass in remembrance of Dr. Coughlan at 8 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

“With Dr. Couglan’s passing, Wesleyan has lost a loyal and passionate supporter, valuable colleague, and dedicated advocate and mentor for students. She will be missed,” Antosz wrote.


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