Steve Duggan settled into his seat on an Aer Lingus flight,
sleep on his mind. Suddenly he heard a voice: "Good morning,
Eamonn Coghlan here." Duggan immediately recognized Ireland's
greatest track hero. "We had met only briefly before," says
Duggan, whom Coghlan nevertheless remembered as owning a
Manhattan pub. "He gave up his seat in first class and came back
to sit down next to me, and before I knew it, we were talking
like old friends." After Coghlan, who had retired from running
three years earlier, explained that he was now working as a
fund-raiser, Duggan readily offered his bar for a charity event
in conjunction with the New York City Marathon.
That was in 1993. Since then the numerous events--from dances
and dinners to cycling races and golf tournaments--run by
Coghlan and his staff have raised $5 million a year for Our Lady
of Sick Children Hospital in Dublin, where Coghlan serves as the
marketing and communications director.
In 1971 an 18-year-old Coghlan left Ireland for Villanova and
quickly established himself as one of the best middle-distance
runners in the world. His lasting legacy is in the indoor mile.
The Chairman of the Boards, as he was known, set the world mark
in that event in '79 with a 3:52.6 and bettered it in '83 with a
3:49.78, which stood for 14 years. In seven of his 14
appearances at the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden he
won the famed Wanamaker Mile, including a still-standing record
of 3:53.0 in 1981. This month he was one of five inaugural
inductees into the Millrose Hall of Fame.
Coghlan's current job seems perfect for his engaging
personality--he thrives when constantly busy, on the phone,
traveling, meeting people--but he turned the position down when
it was first offered. "I said, 'No way,'" says Coghlan. "I saw
how hard the fund-raisers were working." Instead, he became
chief executive of the Irish Track and Field Federation, a
position his father, Bill, had held. Within six months, however,
Coghlan found the politics at the federation suffocating and
quit, and in 1992 began working at the hospital.
February 22, 1999
The job has grown on Coghlan, who lives in Dublin with his wife,
Yvonne, and their four children, Suzanne, 20; Eamonn, 17;
Michael, 11; and John, 10. "The name I made on the track really
gave me a jump start in this career," he says. "I have been very
lucky to have a job that lets me keep up with all my old friends."