Cathy Coughlin, Former Global Marketing Exec at AT&T, Dies at 57

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Cathy Coughlin
Cathy Coughlin
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This obituary was provided by the company and lightly edited by Ad Age.

Cathy M. Coughlin, a former AT&T global marketing executive who crafted the company's image as a mobile technology leader and personally launched a campaign against texting while driving, died Thursday at her home in Dallas after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 57.

In a 35-year career that took her from an entry-level manager to senior exec VP-global marketing officer at AT&T, Ms. Coughlin brought to the job a passion for people, operational excellence and community involvement.

"Cathy and I worked side by side for nearly eight years, and I know very few people with her level of leadership ability, business insight and deep understanding of human nature," said AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson. "But more than her business acumen and accomplishments, Cathy was just an outstanding person. She cared deeply about our business, but she cared more about helping others any way she could."

Throughout her career, Ms. Coughlin earned a reputation as an executive driven to pursue excellence in everything she did setting high expectations for herself and others, asking tough questions and demanding superb execution.

She held senior management roles in sales, operations and marketing. Before heading up the company's global marketing efforts, Ms. Coughlin was president and CEO of AT&T Midwest, based in Chicago. There, she oversaw the company's wireline sales and customer service operations in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Ms. Coughlin was promoted to AT&T's top marketing job in June 2007, just a month before Apple launched the first iPhone exclusively on AT&T's mobile network. She guided the company's marketing, branding and advertising efforts through a transformative period for both AT&T's mobile technology and consumers.

Ms. Coughlin oversaw the launch of AT&T's "Rethink Possible" brand campaign in 2010, an effort to reflect the company's focus on delivering technology to enrich personal lifestyles and advance business innovation.

Ms. Coughlin was also a leading advocate for raising consumer awareness about when not to use mobile technology. She championed AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign to end texting while driving, a nationwide movement that now includes more than 1,500 other organizations and has encouraged more than six million people to take the "It Can Wait" pledge not to text and drive.

Ms. Coughlin also spoke out for women to have equal opportunities in corporate leadership. In 2014, when asked what women should be doing to build their careers early on, she said: "First, take advantage of opportunities. I have never turned down an opportunity in my career. Second, surround yourself with the best people – people who are smart in ways you are not. Third, take ideas, turn them into plans, and do what others say can't be done."

She received numerous honors during her career, most recently being named to Global Telecoms Business 50 CMOs to Watch, the National Diversity Council's "Top 50 Women in Technology" and Brand Innovators' "Top 50 Women in Brand Marketing" lists.

Cathy M. Coughlin was born on July 2, 1957, in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Eugene and Laura Coughlin. She is survived by her mother, Laura, her four brothers Kevin Coughlin, Jim Coughlin, Dan Coughlin and Mick Coughlin, her sister Mary Coughlin Schillinger and 11 nieces and nephews.