Peter W. Coogan and Deborah Willard Coogan

Peter and Deborah Coogan pose together in front of a white fence with a forest behind it.

Debbie and Peter Coogan had been married for 45 years when Peter died of COVID in April 2020. In his will, Peter left money for charities to be selected by Debbie and their children. The Carroll Center for the Blind was the logical choice given how much Peter had benefited from Carroll Center training and its inspiring staff.

Peter and Debbie met in 1973 when they were practicing law at the Boston law firm of Foley Hoag LLP. Previously Peter had served in Washington, D.C. as Assistant Chief Counsel for the United States Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments and Legislative Assistant to Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana. At Foley Hoag, Peter became a prominent business lawyer in Boston, and he held multiple management positions at the law firm. Debbie specialized in trusts, estates, taxation and immigration, and she also taught estate planning at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. The couple had two children, Tracy and Christopher, and they now have three grandchildren.

Peter was diagnosed with glaucoma in his early 20s and he struggled with vision limitations throughout his life. At Foley Hoag, Peter was an early adopter of the personal computer, and he made great use of technology to facilitate his practice of law. Peter spent endless hours learning everything he could about computer software programs, and indeed, he knew applicable programs as well as, if not better than, the law firm’s IT techs.

Throughout his life, Peter had many eye surgeries and procedures, including three corneal transplants. In 2008, Peter lost his left eye to a virulent infection, and with deteriorating vision in his right eye, Peter retired from law practice at the end of 2009. Debbie also retired then, and they divided their retirement years between their home in Newton, Massachusetts and their vacation homes in Arizona and Vermont.

In 2015, Peter’s vision worsened significantly, and he was forced to admit that he was losing the battle to maintain useful vision. Debbie and Peter learned then about the Carroll Center for the Blind, and Peter was eager for training in the JAWS computer program for the visually impaired. He was hesitant, though, about other training but with considerable skepticism, he agreed to take the Carroll Center’s two-week essential skills course. Debbie tells us, “When I dropped Peter off that first day, this distinguished, brilliant lawyer was not happy about heading into the Carroll Center – he was just not sure what to expect. But when I picked him up at the end of the day, Peter was totally energized and enthusiastic.” Peter eagerly adopted the skills and adaptations he was taught, and he very much admired the staff. As Debbie says, the Carroll Center “gave Peter his life back.”

The bequest from Peter’s estate was a generous gift of $100,000, with $50,000 used to support a Center’s technology lab named for Peter and the remaining $50,000 was added to the Center’s general endowment. Debbie was thrilled by the designation of the Peter Coogan Technology Lab: “Peter would be delighted and so proud of this. It is wonderful that his gift will make a lasting impact at a place that has meant so much to Peter and our family!”

Debbie continues their commitment to the Carroll Center as a member of the Trustees and a Philanthropy Circle of Independence annual donor. Recently, Debbie joined the White Cane Legacy Circle by designating the Carroll Center as a beneficiary of her retirement plan at her death. Debbie’s legacy gift will support the Carroll Center’s unrestricted endowment. Debbie explains, “A robust endowment is essential for the Carroll Center’s financial stability, and I am very pleased to direct my gift to endowment so that the Carroll Center can provide support and training long into the future for people who are dealing with vision limitations.”