F. Hugh Coughlin and R. Rife Saunders incorporated the Coughlin Saunders Foundation in Louisiana in 1950. Mr. and Mrs. Coughlin moved to Alexandria in 1938, and Mr. Coughlin, an engineer with experience in utilities, became vice-president and then president of Louisiana Ice and Electric (now CLECO) and led the company’s transition into a modern utility company. Mrs. Coughlin, a former opera singer and voice coach, worked as a volunteer with both youth and adult choirs and produced both un-staged and staged opera in Alexandria.
In 1939, Mr. and Mrs. Saunders moved from Mississippi to Alexandria, where he became a dealer for GM’s Chevrolet Motor Company and a dealer and distributor for GM’s Cadillac Automobile Company. Like the Coughlins, the Saunders believed in the future of Central Louisiana and were involved financially with CLECO.
The foundation’s goal was to make a difference in the Alexandria/Pineville living environment through leadership in philanthropy, and its first projects included fund-raising leadership for college level education projects. Both Mr. Coughlin and Mr. Saunders were active in local and state leadership groups. The foundation was active in the formation of LSU Alexandria. Both founders participated in the school’s groundbreaking ceremony.
Groundingbreaking at Louisiana State University-Alexandria on Dec, 3, 1960. (Front row: kneeling) Cecil Blair, Martin Woodin, and Wilbur Hoyt; (second row) Ed Rand (holding shovel) and F. Hugh Coughlin; and (third row) Gus Kaplan, Rife Saunders, Jean Pharis, James Bolton, Charles McHenry, George Bowdon, Trent James and John McConnell. Republished in the Town Talk, Monday, June 25, 1984.
The foundation contributed to Coughlin Hall at LSUA and the Carolyn and Rife Saunders School of Nursing at Louisiana College. Mrs. Saunders was awarded "The Nth Degree" by Northwestern Louisiana State University for "going the extra mile." The founders also extended their philanthropy into fields other than college education. The foundation's latest named philanthropic projects include the Coughlin Saunders Performing Arts Center and the Anne Coughlin Opera Series.