In Memoriam: Bill Owen Coggin, 1948-2014

Guest Post by Bill Leavitt, Past President and Fellow

Bill Coggin

BILL COGGIN, STC Fellow and Student Advisor of the Bowling Green State University Student STC Chapter, passed away on 9 February 2014 after a long illness. Bill served the technical communication profession and STC both in the academic and professional/industrial arenas with significant personal and professional success.

Bill taught technical communication classes at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) and was instrumental in creating the BGSU English Department’s Technical and Scientific Communication program, which offered both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Bill also created a large and successful student chapter at BGSU and served as its advisor and editor of the national students’ STC journal. To help his students with their job searches, he established a fund that helps students attend and present papers at STC international conferences; this fund will continue to help students for the foreseeable future. Bill was a very popular teacher and student chapter advisor and he did everything possible to help his students to successful careers.

At the Society level, Bill was elected Region 5 director-sponsor for the term 1986-1989 and was nominated for second vice president of STC in 1989 and 1990. During my administration (1989-1990), Bill was appointed to be the first person to serve in the newly created position of Assistant to the President for Academic Affairs, which was the principal contact for students and student chapters to be represented on the STC Board of Directors. In this position, he created an academic support role that has endured in one form or another for 25 years.

Bill has authored and co-authored many books and journal articles, and has conducted workshops and made presentations at academic and industry conferences, including those of STC. Beginning in the late 1990s, Bill made a number of trips to China to teach in BGSU’s faculty exchange program at Xi’an Foreign Languages University, combining teaching English with learning Mandarin and doing research into Chinese education and culture.

He was born in Malvern, Arkansas, and received his BA and MA degrees from Louisiana Tech University. During this time, he met his wife, Betty, and they had two sons, Robert and Martin. He taught at Oklahoma State University (OSU) where he earned his PhD in Anglo Saxon literature and history. While teaching at OSU, Bill became a friends with Tom Warren, Professor Emeritus at OSU (also STC Fellow, Jay R. Gould Award recipient, and long-time STC leader). “Bill, one of the first graduate students to teach technical communication at OSU, not only was a compassionate teacher, he was also highly creative, coming up with novel ways to help students understand the importance of clear communication. Even though his dissertation was in literature, he became a strong advocate for technical communication, which earned him his first teaching job,” Warren said.

Bill then taught technical communication at Miami University before spending the rest of his career at BGSU. Bill was the first in his family to graduate from high school; he worked in the oil fields to earn his way through college. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as a Vietnam interrogator and interpreter.

Bill Coggin and I go back to 1983, when we met during an STC conference. A small group of us were talking about STC and telling jokes. Bill and I became instant friends, as we shared a similar sense of humor and a desire to help STC members and especially students. Bill was Student Advisor at the BGSU Student Chapter during the time that I served as Director-Sponsor (D-S) for STC Region 5 (1983-1986). I feel that I trained and motivated Bill for the job, as he was elected to succeed me as D-S in 1987. Bill then trained and motivated another BGSU person, Lynnette Porter, who then succeeded him in 1989.

Bill served in my presidential administration as Assistant to the President for Academic Programs and we remained friends through our STC careers from then on.

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the fund that helps students attend and present papers at conferences can send their donation to BGSU Foundation, Mileti Alumni Center, Bowling Green, OH 43403; make sure to include the following on the memo line: “In Memory of Bill Coggin.”

Bill Leavitt has written a variety of books on construction and architecture, history, and retirement planning. His latest book is entitled Retirement: Life’s Greatest Adventure. The book contains guidance for how people thinking about retiring can best prepare for retirement and also suggestions for those who have retired but may not have discovered all the joys of retirement.