Br. Patrick Coffey -- An Appreciation

From 1967 Magazine an Appreciation by Robert Allen

"BR. COFFEY was at St. Edward's College for eighteen years, during five of which he was Headmaster. In that period St. Edward's underwent profound changes and Br. Coffey, deeply involved as he was in the life of the school, played a most significant part in its development.

While so strongly marked a personality as Br. Coffey will have made different impressions on the various people who knew and worked with him, nevertheless certain characteristics of his were so outstanding as to be obvious to all. For instance, it is clear that he had many of those qualities which, if not essential to a man in his position, are at least very valuable assets. He had strong nerves, great determination and was, for all practical purposes, unflappable. These must have been a considerable help to anybody shouldering the responsibilities and dealing with the problems with which Br. Coffey had to cope over the last few years.

Perhaps the biggest of these problems, certainly the biggest material one, was the enormous building program that was carried out. He was responsible for the running-track, the dining-hall, the swimming-pool and the chapel. When our new sixth-form block has been added to these we shall, undoubtedly, have one of the best equipped schools in the north-west. All this development was brought about only as a result of considerable thought, foresight and hard work.

However, the amount of time and energy required to deal with these matters in no way diminished the interest that Br. Coffey took in the boys of the school. In fact, his knowledge of the pupils and the time and thought that he devoted to them would have been surprising even in someone on whose attention no other demands were being made. Not only did he know the boys individually, but he was familiar with their home backgrounds and their personal problems; and his patience, understanding and sympathy in dealing with them seemed virtually inexhaustible. Furthermore, his interest was not confined to the star performers but included all pupils, impartially.

One of the most impressive things about Br. Coffey was the extent to which he trusted those about him. He was firmly of the opinion that one of the main aims of education was to produce people who were mature, responsible and self reliant. He realized, too, that to achieve this it was sometimes necessary to pay a price, and he was prepared to put up with the consequences when, as was inevitable on occasions, he was let down. In this, as in all else, his personal feelings and interests were subordinated to the interests of St. Edward's and its pupils.

There is no doubt but that he was acutely missed when he left St. Edward's last summer. He will be long remembered by those with whom he worked as well as by those whom he taught and he carries with him their sincerest wishes for his success and happiness at Prior Park.

Robert Allen. "