Coughlin to receive honorary degree at Oswego Commencement

OSWEGO — Joseph Coughlin, a 1982 graduate of SUNY Oswego who is internationally known for his work in gerontology, business innovation and public policy, will receive an honorary doctor of science degree from the State University of New York on May 12 at Oswego’s 151st Commencement.

He will address both the 9 a.m. ceremony for graduates in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication, Media and the Arts and the 1:30 p.m. ceremony for graduates in the School of Business and School of Education.

Joseph Coughlin
Joseph Coughlin

Coughlin is the founding director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab. At MIT he is a senior lecturer for the School of Engineering’s Engineering Systems Division and MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning where he teaches policy and systems innovation.

“We are proud and happy that SUNY has chosen to honor one of our own graduates, Dr. Joseph Coughlin,” said President Deborah F. Stanley. “Dr. Coughlin has contributed greatly to our understanding of the needs of an aging population and made great strides in meeting those needs through public policy and technological advances. In his dedication to making life better for an aging American population, Dr. Coughlin carries on Oswego’s legacy of efforts to effect positive change in the world.”

Finding innovative solutions

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science from SUNY Oswego, Coughlin went on to earn his master’s degree from Brown University and a doctorate from Boston University.

He formed MIT’s AgeLab in 2000, engaging companies around the world to embrace technology and innovations to serve the needs of an aging population.

The AgeLab has generated a computer aid to help older shoppers choose foods based on their medical history; developed devices in shoes to help with balance; adapted a touch-screen technology to assist with daily tasks; created “pill pets,” electronic virtual pets that will prompt users to take their medications; adapted spacesuit technology to assist joints in lifting and climbing; and designed “Miss Daisy,” a Volkswagen Beetle, a driving simulator to measure driving skills of senior citizens.

AgeLab’s AGNES, or Age Gain Now Empathy System, is a suit that simulates the effects of aging on the body, helping others to physically experience the changes that old people must cope with and inspiring more understanding and empathy. His recent work includes novel approaches to engaging people in planning and financing their retirement years.

Within MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics Coughlin also leads the New England University Transportation Center, a U.S. Department of Transportation-sponsored education, research and technology transfer program that funds an MIT-led consortium of schools that includes Harvard University and several of New England state universities.

A Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, Coughlin is co-editor of the book Aging America and Transportation: Personal Choices and Public Policy, published in January by Springer Publishing. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal as one of the “12 People Who Are Changing Your Retirement” and one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative in Business. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post science and technology sections and Bank Investment Consultant, and produces the online publication Disruptive Demographics.

Coughlin was appointed by President Bush to serve on the White House Conference on Aging Advisory Committee and has advised many companies worldwide including Daimler, British Telecom, Fidelity Investments and others.

Prior to joining MIT, Coughlin worked for EG&G, a Fortune 1000 science and technology company, where he led the transportation technical services practice serving the Federal government including the US Departments of Defense, Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He is married to Emily Coughlin, a 1984 graduate of Brown University, a leading civil litigation attorney in Massachusetts. They have two daughters, Mary and Catherine, and live in suburban Boston.

At SUNY Oswego, the Oswego Alumni Association honored him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2003, and his work was featured in the fall/winter 2002 Oswego alumni magazine. He has been the keynote speaker at Quest, the college’s annual symposium of scholarly and creative activity.