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Mary-Ann Coughlin named Distinguished Professor of Humanics

By Collin Atwood

 The humanics philosophy at Springfield College is something to be recognized. Students, faculty and staff work hard constantly to educate the spirit, mind, and body. 

 Since 1967, Springfield College has given a faculty member the honor of being the Distinguished Springfield Professor of Humanics. This honor is given to someone who exemplifies the school’s philosophy and is able to guide others in how it works.

 Martha Potvin, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, described the award as “our most prestigious recognition of faculty who exemplify our mission of educating students in spirit, mind and body and leadership in service to others.”

 This honor is announced at Springfield College’s annual Humancis Lecture. At this lecture, which is usually held at the end of the academic year, the winner gives a presentation about what the humanics philosophy is all about. This year’s lecture was held virtually on October 20, 2020 due to COVID-19. 

 The recipient for the 2019-2020 Distinguished Springfield Professor of Humanics was Judy Van Raalte, Professor of Psychology and Director of Athletic Counseling Program.

 Van Raalte started teaching on Alden Street in 1990 and served as the women’s tennis coach from 1992 to 1996. She is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant and is listed in the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry.

 This year’s seminar was labeled “Humanics: Give it a ‘Tri’.” She focused on three different topics which were labeled Spirit, Mind and Body which relates to the Humanics Triathlon that was put into place by Van Raalte.  

 “It was clear to me that educating the whole person in spirit, mind, and body in leadership and service to others was in place all around me,” Van Raalte said. 

 Before she went into that she talked about a book that she and Albert Petitpas, professor at Springfield College, published in 2009. It was called Rudy’s Secret CAP.

 This was a children’s book meant to symbolize the humanics philosophy through sport. “On Humanics in Actions days we would bring Rudy’s Secret CAP with us and read to the children as a way to connect them more closely to the joy of reading and the humanics themes of spirit, mind, and body,” Van Raalte said. 

 This book is even used by Charlie Brock, the men’s basketball coach at Springfield College. Him and his team go to local elementary schools and read Rudy’s Secret CAP to the children. The book was also used by Thaddeus France in a Humanics seminar he was teaching at Springfield College.

 Van Raalte then talked about the three branches of her Humanics Triathlon. “The Spirit component of the Humanics Triathlon defines spirit broadly including emotions and character,” Van Raalte said.

 The Mind component had three speakers come from all over the country to come to speak at Springfield College. William Parham, a professor in the Counseling Program, Interim Associate Dean of Faculty and former President of the Loyola Marymount University Faculty Senate was one of the speakers. 

 “Dr. Parham shared insights about sport and mental health and also met with psychology and counseling graduate students to share his expertise,” Van Raalte said. 

 Another speaker was Janice Hilliard who worked for 15 years at the National Basketball Association as Vice President, Senior Director, and Director of Player Development. She mainly talked about leadership issues.

 The last speaker at Humanics Triathlon was Derek Nesland. He is the founder and president of Courts for Kids. He also played basketball at Portland State University as well as in different countries all around the world. Nesland focused on the topic of service to humanity. 

The last component of the Humanics Triathlon was the Body which included the Humanics Challenge. “People who took the Humanics Challenge interpreted Humanics in their own way, creating humanics artwork, essays, a food drive, and a lake Massasoit clean up,” Van Raalte said. 

 People who participated also collected Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to donate to hospitals due to the outbreak of COVID-19. 

 Having Van Raalte as the Distinguished Professor of Humanics over the past year has worked out tremendously. She really knows how to educate everyone in the spirit, mind and body.

 When talking to Van Raalte, President Mary-Beth Cooper said, “you are a true role model for all of us and it’s been really a pleasure to get to know you, so thank you for all of your commitment.”

 To end the lecture, it was time for the 2020-2021 recipient to be named. “I have the pleasure today, also, of announcing the 2020-2021 Distinguished Professor of Humanics,” Potvin said.

 The new recipient of this honorable achievement is Mary-Ann Coughlin. As her name was announced everyone was applauding, over zoom of course, with bright, smiling faces. 

 Coughlin is the Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. She has been a part of Springfield College for 27 years. She also serves on the advisory board for the Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education. 

 “I am so humbled to be receiving this honor,” Coughlin said.

 As Coughlin reflects on the past leaders in Springfield College history she gets a little choked up when realizing she will be joining that prestigious group. 

 Coughlin is a recipient of this award in one of the hardest years we have faced and she will continue as the hard times do as well. She is ready to face this challenge head-on. “I am looking forward to serving this role in a very, very different year,” Coughlin said.

 Coughlin lets the zoom audience know that she is proud and humbled by this honor.

 “I wouldn’t want to be any other place than Springfield College.”

Photo: Springfield College 

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