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Rachel Coughlin was awarded an honorary degree at Knox College Commencement 2019.


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Bridget Coughlin '94 Awarded Honorary Degree

Rachel Coughlin was awarded an honorary degree at Knox College Commencement 2019.

Citation read by Lawrence E. Welch, Clara A. Abbott Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

President Amott, I am honored to present Bridget C. Coughlin, president and chief executive officer of Shedd Aquarium, for the degree of Doctor of Science.

Bridget C. Coughlin leads Shedd Aquarium, Chicago's most-visited cultural attraction and a national leader in animal care, conservation education, and marine research. A nature lover and scientist at heart, she has been at the forefront of developing innovative experiences that educate and engage the public about aquatic animals and their habitats.

She is an advocate for access on multiple fronts—committing Shedd Aquarium to offering tens of millions of dollars in free admission each year; championing a variety of learning styles and approaches; and serving as a voice for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the business world. She ensures that Shedd works with community organizations in Chicago and throughout Illinois to provide affordable access, support charitable causes, and reach out to educate the public.

Before joining Shedd in 2016, Dr. Coughlin served as vice president of strategic partnerships and adjunct curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where she was responsible for education, programs, external partnerships, membership, and fundraising. She led the creation of the museum's health exhibit, which received the Association of Science-Technology Center's Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience.

Dr. Coughlin previously worked at the National Academy of Sciences, where she was managing editor of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

She is a talented researcher who has led teams funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute studying infectious disease. She also was part of an international team at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory that completed a research project on genetics.

As a founding member of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), Dr. Coughlin is playing a key role in the organization’s work to reduce global plastic waste and to advance the protection of marine sanctuaries. In 2017, she was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Our Ocean Conference in Malta, where she represented 19 U.S. aquariums in the commitment to ultimately eliminate the use of single-use plastics across their business operations. Earlier this year, Shedd and other ACP aquariums committed to business practices that will bring their facilities closer to eliminating all single-use plastic materials. For example, Shedd has committed to ensuring that all dining area tableware—including plates, cups, and utensils—is single-use plastic free by 2021.

She is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Museums in the Park consortium, and she serves on the boards of After School Matters, mindSpark Learning in Denver, Colorado, and the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Dr. Coughlin graduated from Knox College in 1994 with a self-designed degree in biochemistry. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Iowa and received an executive MBA certificate from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She has been selected as a recipient of the Knox College Alumni Achievement Award.

Dr. Coughlin skillfully manages multiple roles—as scientist, CEO, educator, and advocate.

President Amott, in recognition of her commitment to conservation and education, and her accomplishments in research, I present Bridget C. Coughlin for the degree of Doctor of Science.

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Printed on Tuesday, May 30, 2023