Celebrating Diane Coughlin’s Enthusiasm for Life and Community

Gathering with people was Diane’s happy place, so Washington State University’s tribute to her as the namesake for the Welcome Center in Schweitzer Engineering Hall is especially meaningful for those of us who were her work family.

Schweitzer Hall represents a reimagination of how and where engineering, construction management, computer science, and design students will begin their university experience. The primary entry leads into a soaring, daylight-filled atrium where different activities are defined in vibrant Cougar colors.

The Welcome Center is a focal point, the key to student engagement. Innovative and multi-purpose classrooms will be arranged alongside student collaboration and club activity zones. Student accomplishments will be celebrated in first-year student engagement studios and senior capstone project design spaces. Areas for student learning and social connections will be scattered throughout, while centers for academic advising, tutoring and career counseling will be available to support Voiland College’s approximately 4,600 students.

This 60,000 SF student success hub is the cornerstone of a new district, where students will benefit from a cross-disciplinary journey, acquire a myriad of tools to be successful, and develop life-long connections.

The pay-it-forward vision of the university and benefactors is extraordinary: because someone cared when they were students, they are united in creating an extraordinary place to show how much they care about future generations.

Diane and Jim have supported WSU students for many years, and through their leadership, Schweitzer Engineering Hall is becoming a reality. This intentional place of student engagement, community, and creativity is a fitting testament of how fully Diane embraced each day.

Officially, she fulfilled various operational roles at Coughlin Porter Lundeen – receptionist, all facets of billing – but in truth, she was also responsible for staff longevity and long-term client relationships. New staff were quickly welcomed onto our team. She took time to meet our families and marveled at how quickly our children came of age. She held us to a higher level of professionalism, including college interns who became firm leaders. Clients were greeted enthusiastically in person and on the phone.

And she loved to celebrate holidays and milestones. Her Halloween costume choices (their theme frequently paired with Jim’s) were epic. More than once she so fully represented her character that we weren’t sure it was Diane until she spoke. She and Jim developed long-term friendships with clients, colleagues, and staff. The Seattle AEC community welcomed them both.

Hundreds of pounds of local produce were preserved during the annual spring and fall canning parties at the Coughlin home, where family, friends, and staff of all abilities swapped stories, laughs, music, and smart adult beverages as they chopped and stirred. Some had no experience canning, others had little – but Diane patiently instructed (herded the cats!), distributing assignments and keeping one eye on the timers. No team has ever had that much fun doing so much work. New friendships were formed, and everyone returned home with treats for their family and friends.

She cared deeply about her community. Chili feeds were a popular fundraiser with office staff. Over the years, Diane prepped many pounds of hamburger for the chili and organized other employee contributions of baked goods. Altogether, they raised hundreds of dollars in support of employee participation in charities like the annual Fred Hutch Obliteride.

Extracurricular activities with staff also included fundraising walks in support of arthritis, ALS, and breast cancer cures. When one of our own struggled with adverse life circumstances, she’d rally the troops to support them with meals, rides, and encouragement.

Beyond our doors, she knit the softest caps for cancer patients and quilted beautiful baby blankets for local hospitals.

Along with the WSU community, we celebrate Diane’s exuberance for life, for people, and for learning and eagerly await the opening of the welcome center.

Read more about the Diane Coughlin Welcome Center in WSU’s announcement.

“Sail the main course in a simple sturdy craft. Keep her well stocked with short stories and long laughs. Go fast enough to get there but slow enough to see.”      ― Jimmy Buffett
Renderings courtesy of ZGF Architects