Bridget Coughlin '94 received an Alumni Achievement Award
Photo by Brea Cunningham

At this point, Bridget Coughlin probably needs no introduction—not only did she grace the cover of the fall 2016 issue of Knox Magazine, she was also the speaker for Commencement 2019. Nonetheless, let’s revisit some career highlights: Following her graduation from Knox, she earned a doctorate in biochemistry from University of Iowa. Next, she joined the National Institutes of Science, where she served as managing editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and led research teams funded by the National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.

She began her museum career as vice president of strategic partnerships and programs and adjunct curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, leading the creation of the museum’s health exhibit and establishing a National Institutes of Health-funded Genetics of Taste Lab, where visitors can participate in ongoing research on the science of taste. In 2016, she assumed the leadership of Chicago’s world-renowned Shedd Aquarium as president and CEO, where she works to spark compassion, curiosity, and conversation efforts for aquatic animals. “[Bridget Coughlin’s] accomplishments have established her as one of the brightest leaders of any education, research, and conservation organization today,” says Tyrone Fahner, past chair of the Shedd Aquarium’s Board of Trustees.

How did Knox influence your career?

Community service is one of the College’s core values and such a part of the DNA of the place.

What do we hope for this organization and for the communities we serve? How can we impact, positively, more people—here, on-site; there, out in the community; and everywhere, digitally? How can we do more good—here, there, and everywhere? We have 2 million visitors who come here a year. How do we provide vehicles for them to have a collective voice about conservation and about the science of aquatic animals?

What advice do you have for Knox students?

Seek help when you need it. I had to learn to go ask professors for help. This campus is small enough that you have freedom, but you can’t hide.

See more about Bridget Coughlin’s Commencement address on pp. 34-35.