“I always wanted things to be better,” said Dr. Peggy Coghlan, when asked about her legacy.
The prominent Longview philanthropist, educator, and civic leader, who positively and profoundly impacted the cultural landscape of Longview, died peacefully after a brief illness on August 23, 2018. She was surrounded by her loving and devoted family, son Kelly Coghlan, daughter-in-law Brenda Coghlan, grandson Kelly Jack Coghlan Jr., and daughter Katie Coghlan.
Born February 18, 1929 in Cooper Texas, Peggy and her mother, Eva Jo Crowder, lived in her grandmother’s (Velma Holland) boarding house for female college students who attended East Texas Teacher’s College in Commerce, Texas. When Peggy was 11, the family moved to Kilgore, where they lived near Kilgore College and across from the Kilgore Public Library.
Colleges and libraries would become cornerstones of her professional and civic endeavors.
Salutatorian of her 1946 Kilgore High School graduating class and a member of the National Honor Society, Peggy was also President of the Student Senate and was a cheerleader. She enrolled at Kilgore College, graduating Valedictorian in 1948 with an Associates of Arts Degree. She served as President of Phi Theta Kappa Honorary Society, and she was a member of the world famous Kilgore College Rangerettes.
While at Kilgore College, Peggy was elected secretary of the student body. Its president was Howard Coghlan, who had enrolled at the college after returning home from distinguished service in World War II. Howard asked Peggy for a date, and when she got home, her mother smiled and said, “Where have you been keeping him?”
Peggy completed her B.S.Ed. degree in 1950 at North Texas State University, graduating summa cum laude. Her many educational achievements at North Texas State included Outstanding Senior Woman, President of Mortar Board, Who’s Who in Government, and Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.
Upon her graduation from North Texas State University in 1950 and his graduation from SMU law school, Peggy and Howard were married August 26, 1951 and made their home in Longview, where he practiced law and she taught government at Kilgore College and was named the first assistant director for Gussie Nell Davis and the Kilgore College Rangerettes.
Peggy put her academic career on hold to be a full time mother to son Kelly, born in 1952, and daughter Katie, born in 1955, but she continued to teach, opening the Peggy Coghlan Teen School, where for 17 years, hundreds of girls and boys attended classes in self-improvement. She also judged some 70 Miss America State Pageants in four states and was an in-demand speaker, making more than 250 speeches in areas of personal motivation, growth, and development. For eleven years, Peggy was an instructor at the All American Drill Team Workshops at Southern Methodist University.
In the early 1970s, Peggy resumed her academic career, first teaching civics at Longview High School, then joining the faculty at Kilgore College, where she taught government, psychology, sociology, and speech, before being named Director of Freshman Orientation for the College. Kilgore College later presented her with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
In 1976, Peggy Coghlan was awarded the Master of Education degree by Texas A&M University, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Three years later, in 1979, she became the first woman to receive a Doctor of Education degree from Texas A&M, again graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Her notable educational achievements while at A&M included Phi Delta Gamma, Mortar Board Chapter, Kappa Delta Pi Honorary Society, Phi Delta Kappa Honorary Society, and Who’s Who of Women in Education.
Dr. Coghlan was named to the Target 2000 Planning Committee for Texas A&M, as one of only eight women on the 250 member nationally selected committee to formulate A&M’s future in the areas of curriculum, faculty, and programs, and she was a member of the President’s Advisory Council. She served as the charter president of the Development Council for the College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Dean C. Corrigan, the former Dean of the College of Education at A&M, said “In addition to her intelligence, Peggy Coghlan adds a warm glow to any group with whom she works. She realizes that leadership is a serious business, but it does not have to be grim. She is a rare person indeed. It’s too bad we can’t clone her so every community and state could have at least one.”
A long-time, active member of the Deep East Texas A&M Club, Dr. Coghlan also established an endowed scholarship for deserving female students from the East Texas area entering A&M. Peggy later received the Outstanding Alumni Award, College of Education, from Texas A&M.
In 1997, Governor Dolph Briscoe appointed Peggy Coghlan to the first Texas Commission on the Status of Women. She was named to Governor Bill Clements’ Blue Ribbon Committee on Education, which had a profound and positive impact on public education in Texas.
In 1993, Kilgore College named Dr. Peggy Coghlan Vice President of Instruction and Chief Academic Officer, a position she held until her retirement in 1996. While serving as Vice President, she developed the Kilgore College Foundation, increasing institutional giving to the College. She was the first woman to be named Vice President of Kilgore College.
Besides her love of education, Dr. Peggy Coghlan dedicated her time and energy to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Longview and East Texas. Her service on numerous civic and state organizations included: Member and Executive Officer, Junior League of Longview, Inc.; President, Longview Lawyer’s Wives of Gregg County Bar Auxiliary; President, Longview Jayceettes; President, Longview Story League; President, Longview Study Club; President, Longview Federation of Women’s Clubs; President, Longview Community Center Corporation; Chairperson, Longview Library Advisory Board; Chairperson, Building Committee, Longview Public Library; Chairperson, Fundraising Committee, Longview Public Library; Chairperson, Longview Public Library Foundation; and Chairperson, Dedicatory Ceremonies for the new addition to the Gregg County Courthouse.
Her positive impact on the greater East Texas area included service on many boards, including: the Longview YMCA Board of Directors, Executive Committee; Gregg County Juvenile Board; Development Council, College of Education, Texas A&M University; Sabine Valley Regional MH/MR Association; Sunday School Teacher and Board of Stewards, Longview First United Methodist Church; American Red Cross; Volunteer Action Center of Longview; Leadership Longview, Inc.; Crisman Preparatory School; Longview High School, Department of Vocational Education; Citizen’s Advisory Board, Longview Independent School District; Building Committee and Fundraising Committee, Maude Cobb Convention and Activities Center; Women’s Commission of Longview; Good Shepherd Medical Center Foundation; Longview Economic Development Corporation; Longview Higher Education Advisory Board; and LeTourneau University President’s Advisory Council.
During her tenure on the building and fundraising committees for the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center, Peggy was instrumental in securing Cecile Moeschle’s substantial private contribution, given in honor of her grandmother, Maude Cobb, which enabled ground-breaking to begin. Peggy created the fund-raising effort called the “Grand Club,” where the names of each person who contributed $1,000 to the Center were placed on a plaque along the avenue that leads to the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center, which is named Grand Avenue.
Dr. Peggy Coghlan’s most significant volunteer achievement was when she chaired the building and fund raising committees to build a first-class public library for Longview. In 1984, Longview voters approved a $2.9 million dollar bond issue to pay for construction of a new library on land adjacent to City Hall. Peggy set a goal to raise one million dollars in private donations to buy superior furnishings, equipment, books, and a public plaza. When the new Longview Public Library was dedicated in 1987, more than $1.1 million dollars had been pledged, which was the largest amount raised through private funds for a public library up to that time.
Recognized for her efforts on behalf of the Longview Public Library, July 3, 1987 was declared “Dr. Peggy Coghlan Day” in Longview, and the library conference room was designated the “Dr. Peggy Coghlan Conference Room” in honor of her dedicated service to the City of Longview. The Northeast Texas Library Association named Dr. Coghlan its Citizen of the Year for 1988.
In 1989, The American Institute of Architects, Northeast Texas Chapter, presented an honorary membership, one of only five in Texas, to Dr. Coghlan for her leadership in the realization of the Maude Cobb Activity Center and The Longview Public Library.
In August 2018, the Longview Public Library received a substantial gift from Dr. Peggy Coghlan to endow the library’s Summer Reading Program for the next decade. The goal of the summer reading program, which has grown to more than 2,000 participants each summer, is to foster a love of reading, free for families, regardless of their socio or economic backgrounds.
Other notable honors and awards presented to Dr. Peggy Coghlan include the Outstanding Alumni Award, College of Education, Texas A&M University; Community Leadership Award, Sabine Valley MH/MR; Distinguished Alumni Award, Kilgore College; Personalities of the South; First Lady of Longview, Beta Sigma Phi; Ten Best Dressed Women Award, Longview Kidney Foundation; President’s Award for Outstanding Civic Achievement, Longview Chamber of Commerce; Outstanding Citizen’s Award, Longview Greggton Rotary Club; Woman of the Year, Longview Federation of Women’s Clubs; Headliner Award, Professional Journalists, Inc.; East Texan of the Year Award, East Texas Chamber of Commerce; Woman of Achievement Award, Longview Zonta Club; Community Service Award, AARP; Heritage Award, Festival of the Pines Association; Citizen of the Year Award, Longview Rotary Club; Landmark Award for Outstanding Civic Leadership, Gregg County Historical Museum; Ruby Award for Civic and Educational Leadership, Crisman School; and the Stars Over Longview Award, Longview Regional Hospital. Peggy was honored by The Texas House of Representatives for Outstanding Professional and Civic Achievements.
Dr. Peggy Coghlan was predeceased by her beloved husband and “best friend” of 65 years, prominent Longview attorney and civic leader, Howard Coghlan, parents Eva Jo Crowder Weir and Irl Crowder, stepfather Bob Weir, and brother Jeral J. Crowder.
She is survived by her son, Kelly Coghlan, daughter-in-law Brenda Coghlan, grandson Kelly Jack Coghlan Jr of Houston, Texas, her daughter, Katie Coghlan of Crystal Beach, Texas; sister-in-law, Jean Crowder of Houston; nieces, Sandy Crowder Eckles (Tom), Patty Crowder Henry (Melton), and Tracy Crowder Gilbert of Houston; nephews, Vincent Coghlan, Patrick Coghlan, Michael Coghlan, and Dennis Coghlan; special family friends Carolyn McClain of Atlanta, Georgia , Lindsey and Dr. David Vineyard of Nacogdoches, Texas, Jim and Linda Buie of Diana, Texas, Kyle and Anne Crews of Dallas, Texas, Greg Powell of Carthage, Texas; and devoted employees, Sharon Beall and Rolando Nieto.
Dr. Peggy Coghlan was a devoted wife to Howard, a loving and supportive mother to Kelly and Katie, a loyal and encouraging friend, an outstanding teacher and mentor, and a highly respected woman of integrity and humor, with a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ.
When asked by an interviewer how she would like to be remembered, Dr. Peggy Coghlan answered without hesitation, “I always wanted things to be better.” Whether people, places, or projects, she worked with vision and vigor to make it so.
She often quoted Romans 8:28: “All things work together for the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” She lived by example the Quaker missionary Stephen Grellet’s quote: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Dr. Peggy Coghlan’s commitment to “make things better,” together with her indomitable spirit, visionary outlook, and charismatic leadership made an indelible and lasting impact on Longview’s civic, academic, and cultural landscape, and also in the lives of her family, her friends and associates, and for future generations of the greater Longview and East Texas communities.
Heaven is now better, too.
Services are under the direction of Rader Funeral Home of Longview and will be at First United Methodist Church, 400 N. Fredonia, Longview, Texas 75601, at 1 p.m. on Thursday, September 6. The Coghlan family will receive guests at the church between 11:30 am and 12:45 pm. Burial will be at Rosewood Cemetery on FM 1844 following the church service.
If desired, memorials may be made to: First United Methodist Church Chancel Choir, 400 North Fredonia, Longview, Texas 75601; The Longview Public Library Children’s Reading Program, 222 W. Cotton, Longview, Texas, 75601; Kilgore College Foundation for the Benefit of the Rangerette Showcase Museum, 1100 Broadway, Kilgore, Texas 75662.
The Coghlan family extends heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Dorothy Ivey for her kindness, friendship and expert medical care for Peggy. They also wish to acknowledge Compassionate Caregivers of East Texas for tender and loving care given to Peggy, under the direction of Melissa Lopez Durr. Lastly, the family gratefully and sincerely thanks The Hospice of East Texas.
Dr. Peggy Coghlan’s family is humbled and deeply appreciative for the outpouring of love and support from dear friends, church family, and the fine citizens of Longview for their many cards, letters, phone calls, flowers and most importantly, their prayers.
To God be the glory.