College pitches in for Coughlin

While his son Chris was undergoing cancer treatment at the University of Indiana, Coughlin conducted his classes in real time just down the hospital hall, and delivered on campus via Skype. Students logged into Skype accounts to listen live. A student proctor manned the classroom microphone to relay questions and answers.

For everyone involved, the endeavor seemed to make a bad situation better. And in typical NMC fashion, everyone involved was eager to share the credit for making it work.

“You don’t just pick somebody up off the street and have them teach engineering,” said Educational Media Technology specialist Bob Chauvin, who helped set up the technical back end to make the system work. “I give (Coughlin) credit for keeping everything going in the middle of something incredibly daunting.”

“While Chris is in bed getting chemo, there’s not a lot I can do,” said Coughlin, who was only too aware he had no backup. And while administrators would have supported a decision to cancel the class, he discovered a benefit for himself, too.

“It was routine, for sure,” Coughlin said. Ever the educator, he’s also aware that the experience taught lessons the college can use in the future.

“It’s good for us to learn how to do this,” Coughlin said. “Necessity is the mother of all invention.”

Students were the linchpin to the whole system, both Coughlin and Chauvin agreed.

“His students were very mature, very supportive, no fooling around,” Chauvin said. “We provided the technology and showed them how to do it, and they did it.”

“I had just the most amazing group of students this year,” Coughlin said. “The stars aligned for this.”

That alignment even pulled in a former student. Kate Dorash attended NMC in 2007-09 as an exchange student from Belarus and had Coughlin for two semesters. She now works as an ultrasound technologist in Indianapolis. When she heard about the situation, she offered her apartment to Coughlin and his wife Diane to use for the duration of Chris’ treatment.

“He would do the same for me,” Dorash said, recalling how Coughlin not only helped her through a difficult class, but to adjust to American culture.

“His course is not one of the easiest ones, but he helped me get through it quite successfully. He was so patient,” she said. “He would do everything he could to help me out. He’s that kind of person. He helps everybody out.”

Tests in early May showed no evidence of cancer in Chris Coughlin. Treatment continues.

“That was spectacular news. There’s every evidence he’ll be cured now,” Jim Coughlin said.