C. Edward Coffey: Wofford’s fifth Rhodes scholar

Until last November, C. Edward Coffey was Wofford’s most recently-named Rhodes Scholar. A gap of some twenty-five years came between John Q. Hill’s election in 1948 and C. Edward Coffey’s election in 1973.

C. Edward Coffey

Eddie Coffey came to Wofford in 1970 from Little River, SC, which is near the coast.  He came with the intent of going to medical school, and he became a psychology major. Over his four years at Wofford, he was active in the psychology honorary fraternity and Hyperopics.  He was named the outstanding psychology major in both his junior and senior years, was named to Who’s Who, and elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Beyond the classroom, he played in a band and enjoyed canoeing, kayaking, and tennis, according to an interview in the local newspaper after his election. The newspaper writer who interviewed him called him a Renaissance man because of his varied interests. He was encouraged to apply for the scholarship by then-Dean of the College B. G. Stephens.

Coffey talked in the newspaper article about the interview process, particularly mentioning the attitude that many of the Ivy League candidates for the Rhodes held. Most of them, he suggested, relished the one-upmanship game and also were very aloof during the regional interview session. At Oxford, Coffey studied at St. John’s College, taking a BA in Psychology, Philosophy, and Physiology.

After his time in Oxford, Dr. Coffey went to medical school at Duke and became a psychiatrist, making him the second Rhodes scholar from Wofford to become a physician. He has written an immense number of articles, books, and book chapters and has held numerous significant academic appointments, including at Duke, at the Allegheny University of Health Sciences, and at the Henry Ford Health System.  He currently serves as Vice President and CEO of Behavioral Health Services, and holds the Kathleen and Earl Ward Chair of Psychiatry of Henry Ford Hospital. Dr. Coffey is also Professor of Psychiatry and of Neurology at Wayne State University School of Medicine.  He’s also received numerous awards both for medicine and for leadership in health care.

By Phillip Stone

I've been the archivist of Wofford College and the South Carolina United Methodist since 1999. I'll be sharing college, Methodist, and local history, documents, photographs, and other interesting stories on this blog, which I've been keeping since December 2007.