August 14, 2018

Coghlin Cos. co-founder establishes $25K Nichols scholarship

PHOTO/Matt VOLPINI
James Coghlin Sr. with his two sons Chris (left) and Jim Jr. (right).

James Coghlin Sr., co-founder and chairman of Worcester manufacturing conglomerate Coghlin Cos., and wife Nancy have donated $25,000 to his alma mater Nichols College to establish the James '67 and Nancy Coghlin Endowed Scholarship for incoming or transfer students. In an interview with WBJ, James Coghlin Sr. spoke about his time at the business school and how that translated to his time spent helping to run the family-owned business.

What do you hope to accomplish with the scholarship?

A long time ago, I was informed of a unique definition of security. One security is the power to produce. So my experience as a student at Nichols was I leveraged the education and environment there and leveraged my ability to become productive in my journey, not only in business but my overall life. My wife and I want to give others the opportunity I had at Nichols and she had at Endicott College and Boston University to experience this educational environment and enhance their power to produce, hopefully as good community citizens.

You attended Nichols as a transfer student. Where did you study before?

College of the Holy Cross. I transferred after a conversation with my parents. I was majoring in political science and didn't think it was going to be what I wanted to do in my life. My father suggested I transition to a business school. I transferred to Nichols as a marketing student, and it worked out great.

How did Nichols prepare you for the business world?

Obviously, marketing. Nichols is a small college so the faculty-student ratio was very tight. The faculty had doors open for students like myself to go visit, brainstorm with and test theory against reality. I found it to be very engaging, and it caused me to step outside of the box on occasion. Sometimes you stub your toe, but you grow as a result of the experience.

In what other ways are you involved at Nichols?

I've given about 30 years of my time, talent, treasure and wisdom to the college. I've served on the board of trustees, and I've been a resource to students and parents asking why they might go to Nichols. I've worked with juniors and seniors who are looking for career paths, and I've brought the 15-40 Connection to campus to enhance awareness about early cancer detection.

Does that relationship foster and internship or talent pipeline opportunities at Coghlin Cos.?

We've had some interns, and we've had some Nichols graduates work for us. I believe we still have some working for us.

You majored in marketing, but what led you to manufacturing?

We purchased a company in 1992 that had a distribution business, but two people in it were making cables. We saw the opportunity to grow that cable business with the long-term belief we could build higher-end assemblies and ultimately total products, which is where we are today.

Why is education at a business school like Nichols important for someone that wants to get into manufacturing?

How do customers come to know the Coghlin Cos., what we do here and how we do it? It all comes from marketing. Whatever the profession you happen to be in, whether a lawyer, doctor or accountant, you have to find a way to draw people to it. It's more than just putting pieces together and building a piece of equipment here.

This interview was conducted and edited by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.

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