Rory or Rod Coughlan, more formally known as Roderick Joseph Coughlan, passed away on January 5th, 2019, as the result of surgical complications at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, British Columbia. Rory was born in March 1952 on the Isle of Wight, and grew up in Hythe, close to Southampton in the U.K. He attended university at Weymouth College in the late 1960s and was always tickled pink that his was the first year male students were able to enrol. During the 1970s he moved from London to Canada and started a family. While he lived in Regina, Saskatchewan for a brief period of time, Rory made the West Coast of Canada his home until he moved to Peterborough, ON, to teach in the Department of Psychology at Trent. After 16 years, Rory retired in 2017, and returned to live in Victoria, BC – his favourite place on the planet. He had just begun to teach as a sessional instructor at the University of Victoria, where he had completed his PhD, after a year of caring for his partner, Karen, who underwent a couple of serious surgeries the previous year.
Rory was passionate about music. He had amazing tales of attending music festivals and concerts featuring all the icons of the 1960s and 1970s. He had a brief opportunity to play professionally in London, his greatest highlight being able to open for John Martyn, who he regarded as the musician’s musician. His love of music was also expressed in the constant creation of mixed tapes which he sent to friends and family around the world, and which were often the topic of lively discussion and review. He prided himself of being able to identify the best, most creative and talented musicians well in advance of the mainstream. When CDs first came on the scene, Rory believed they represented the next best thing to live performance. He never changed his mind – he maintained a huge collection of 1000s of CDs, in almost every conceivable category. His tastes were eclectic indeed. Recently he calculated that he had music from every corner of the globe.
Throughout his life, Rory loved sports of all kinds, but football and tennis topped them all. Everyone who knew Rory, also knew that he was a long-suffering fan of Southampton Football Club. His heart would break as his favourite players were poached by the better, richer teams. His spirits would rise and fall with their rare victories, and more frequent defeats. Some of his very last words referenced the suffering he’d endured at their hands. While he loved to watch football, he loved to play tennis. Starting in his teens, at the local tennis club in Hythe, Rory became an enthusiastic student of the game. He would often recount how he taught his mother to play such a wicked game that she became women’s tennis champion in the local league. Up until the very end of his life, Rory sought out almost anyone, regardless of ability, to play with.
Rory was a funny and witty man. He loved to laugh. He’s deepest friendships were those with whom he could laugh long and loud – he relished the outrageous and inappropriate. His favourite were awful puns. He also loved to throw fabulous parties. He would work like a demon cleaning the house, preparing the food, getting in the drink, setting the mood with music and lighting, and then float happily between the little groups that invariably formed. His annual Department of Psychology Christmas parties, while he was at Trent University, became legendary. He started them the year he arrived, and hosted them for 15 years until he left Ontario.
Rory’s greatest love was teaching and mentoring students. He was amazed that he had the opportunity to be hired into a tenure track position at Trent University at the age of 50. He was thrilled when he secured tenure, and he never failed to be grateful for the opportunities that working at Trent afforded him. Rory served the Trent community with his active involvement in the faculty association (2005 – 2009) where he was able to advocate for faculty as both the grievance officer and a bargaining/negotiation team member. He was passionate about research that contributed to our understanding of the human condition, and he chaired the Research Ethics Board at the university for five years (2008 – 2013). He also served his department as Chair for two years (2014-2016). However, above and beyond all the administrative ‘stuff’ that Rory did, it was his passion for teaching and supervising students that left a lasting mark at Trent.
The foundation of Rory’s academic interests and his leftist politics were grounded in a commitment to advancing personal agency, social equity, human dignity, and living a life of passion. Over the years, he challenged and trained 1000’s of students. He had the opportunity to mentor many bright students – supervising Honours thesis and graduate students, many of whom have gone on to make significant contributions both within and outside the Academy. He was larger-than-life in the classroom, passionate, sometimes loud and always engaging. Rory was selected as one of 20 university and college teachers across Ontario to be short-listed for TV Ontario’s 2010 Best Lecturer competition. As a lecturer, Rory sought to bear witness to what he had learned from his own experience and struggles.Nothing satisfied or humbled him more than knowing he had made a difference. Over the years, Rory received many deeply personal letters of gratitude from students, thanking him for inspiring them, sometimes changing their lives.
Rory’s life ended too soon. The loss of his companionship and friendship will be difficult indeed. He will be missed by his family, his friends, his colleagues, and all those who knew and loved him.
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