Craig Coughlin, Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, received the Paige D. L’Hommedieu Award from Middlesex County College at its Fall Convocation Aug. 26. He was presented the award for his leadership in the state and service to the people of Middlesex County.
“Speaker Coughlin has long been a champion of higher education in New Jersey and is helping to reduce the barriers to access and completion for so many residents of our State, said MCC President Mark McCormick. “Among other initiatives, the Speaker sponsored the Hunger-Free Campus Act, which requires the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education to establish a Hunger-Free Campus Grant program to address the issue of food insecurity among students enrolled in public institutions of higher education in the State. He also championed the continuation this year of the Community College Opportunity Grant program that allows students from families with adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less who are enrolled in at least six credits at community colleges in New Jersey to attend for free.”
The Paige D. L’Hommedieu Award is the highest honor given by the College. It is awarded at the Fall Convocation to a person who embodies the citizenship, leadership and humanity of Paige D. L’Hommedieu, the founding board chair of the College.
“This is a remarkable honor,” Speaker Coughlin said. “Thank you for letting me be included in the hall of fame of those people who have made a commitment and have made Middlesex County and Middlesex County College the special places that they are.”
He lauded New Jersey community colleges for the work they do in educating 325,000 students each year.
“Community college opens doors to opportunity for people throughout the state of New Jersey,” he said. “I believe that county colleges are the foundation of what is the essential nature of education.”
He said the Assembly has recently addressed college access and affordability by passing several laws: two that addressed repaying student loans, and others that expanded funding for Tuition Aid Grants (TAG), and standardized the number of credits needed for graduation. The Assembly also worked with the Governor on the Community College Opportunity Grant, which funds tuition for students making less than $65,000 per year, and addressed food insecurity on college campuses.
Speaker Coughlin cited his sister, an MCC graduate who has gone on to success in the corporate world.
“The work that this college does is remarkable,” he said. “It is a place for hope and success for so many students.”
A partner in a Woodbridge-based law firm, Rainone, Coughlin Minchello LLC, Speaker Coughlin attended public schools in South Amboy and graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University in 1980 followed by a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law in 1983. He was a member of the South Amboy Board of Education, and served as a City Councilman for six years. He was also a Municipal Court Judge, Prosecutor and Public Defender.
Speaker Coughlin was elected to the General Assembly in 2009, and is now serving his fifth term, representing the 19th Legislative District. In January 2018, he was selected by his peers to become the chamber’s 171st Speaker. His nine-year legislative portfolio consists of a wide range of accomplishments including increasing the state’s minimum wage, reforming the state’s out-of-network medical billing practices, expanding the state’s microbrewing industry, implementing automatic voter registration, and modernizing the state’s Brownfield remediation process. His leadership has led to passage of legislation covering a wide range of areas including school funding, library governance, law enforcement safety, criminal code modernization, Motor Vehicle Commission operations, landlord-tenant relations, property maintenance, joint and cooperative purchasing, school board elections, and tax sharing.