Neighborly, noble and nice: Jim Coghill remains a fixture at West Forsyth

Published 12:07 am Thursday, December 8, 2022

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

What do you call a man who has given nearly 50 years of his life to an organization?
You give him an alliterative phrase that fits him perfectly.
“Neighborly, Noble and Nice” was bestowed upon a dedication page to Jim Coghill, who started teaching at West Forsyth in 1973, where the phrase appeared in “The Cronus,” the school’s yearbook, when it was dedicated to him in 2002.

“Three of my students came up with that phrase to describe me and it just stuck,”Coghill said.
The phrase has since been added in a training room dedication to the longtime trainer in 2011, where it hangs above the doorway to the room. And in March of this year, with the encouragement of athletics trainer Linsey Ciccocioppo, a mural was painted on the athletics training room wall by two students — Megan Macdonald and A.J. Mirafuente.
“I absolutely knew nothing about it,” Coghill said of the training-room dedication. “I mean when they came out and had the plaque that said, ‘James W. “Jim” Coghill’…It was one of those things where it was just such a surprise. And when they had the plaque, it was going to say James W. “Jim” Coghill retired at such and such, blah, blah, blah, being ‘Neighborly, Noble and Nice.’
“And it just, I mean, I was just completely blown away.”
Even though the phrase is apropos of Coghill, he was still taken aback.
“Well, let’s just say, and all of us make mistakes, don’t misunderstand me,” Coghill said. “All of us have opportunities where we look back and we say, ‘Oh, I wish I had done it just a little bit differently and all.’ But the kids getting to the point of saying what they said about an old man being ‘Neighborly, Noble and Nice,’ it made me think that’s really what I have got to be.
“And I’ve certainly made mistakes in the past. Everybody has, but at the same time I think I’ve just got this engrained in my brain to the point that it’s one of those things where I just love being at West Forsyth and I certainly don’t want to upset any applecart or do anything that would say to somebody, ‘Well, you know, that old man ain’t neighborly, noble and nice.”
At 79 years old, Coghill’s not old. He’s just seasoned. He grew up in Henderson. While in Henderson, Coghill had no thoughts of going into education or training. His parents wanted him to be a pharmacist in his hometown. He said he chose not to get into pharmacy because he didn’t like math and science, but English and social studies were his favorites.
“Several teachers actually influenced my life, in an English teacher and a social studies teacher, that enabled me to say to myself, ‘I really and truly want to be a teacher,’” he said. “And that was the way it was all about.”
After graduating from high school, Coghill enrolled at the University of North Carolina. He graduated from there with a double major in journalism and education (social studies).
“The person that lived right behind my mother and father in Henderson was actually the editor of the Henderson Daily Dispatch,” Coghill said. “And he kind of took me under his wings in the high school days and asked me to go to ballgames with him and keep stats and so on and so forth. And I did and I would go in and I would see him write it up, and every once in a while, he’d say, ‘How about trying to write an article on Johnny Jones there? He was the spectacular player of the ballgame last night.”
His love of journalism blossomed from that experience.
“And I’d write a couple little articles here and there, and then I said to myself, ‘Well, I wouldn’t mind maybe being involved with journalism and education at the same time, maybe working with the school newspaper or a yearbook, or something like that because I was very involved with activities with the gentleman who was the editor of the hometown newspaper,” Coghill said.
That school newspaper at UNC was The Daily Tar Heel, one of the best college newspapers in the country.
“I’ve interviewed a fella by the name of Dean Smith,” Coghill said of the former men’s basketball coach for the Tar Heels. “I had a wonderful situation down there with him, and I have those articles with Dean Smith, and then of course got to know, as time went on, of course this was past the time of my graduation needless to say, Roy Williams.”
In addition to The Daily Tar Heel, Coghill worked at the Henderson Daily Dispatch.
“I’ll tell you the two summers that I was journalism school I went back to Henderson,” he said. “Of course, I didn’t go to summer school those summers, and I worked with the Dispatch, the Henderson Daily Dispatch. And then for two years, my junior and senior year, I worked for The Daily Tar Heel. You know, I have some mighty wonderful articles about people from the past, and one in particular that I shook hands with on several occasions was a fella by the name of Dean Smith.”
Coghill received his journalism degree in 1966 and received degree in education in 1967.
While at UNC, Coghill came to Winston-Salem to do his student teaching at Dalton Junior High, which is now part of the Forsyth Tech campus.
“Just per chance, I mean I had several places lined up in the Durham/Chapel Hill area. And our professor came in one day and he said, ‘Would anyone like to go to Winston-Salem? I need three people to go up there and be at a junior high school,’” Coghill said. “And this guy and I were good buddies, and we kind of looked at each other and we raised our hands.
“And sure enough, that’s what happened and all three of us came up here — the two guys, there were several girls, too, but one in particular we knew, but didn’t know the others real well,” Coghill said. “And of the four of us that came up here and did student teaching. I was the only one that stayed in Winston-Salem.”
That changed Coghill’s life, both professionally and personally. His first job as a full-time teacher was from 1967-72 where he taught social studies and English at Southwest Junior High School with Principal Moses Bridges. From there, he moved to Kennedy High School from 1972-73, where he taught social studies, worked for the school newspaper and was a baseball coach.
“I know that my mother and father were probably so disappointed that I did not stay in Henderson and did not become a pharmacist,” he said. “But there was just no way that was going to work out because I just wasn’t all that interested in all that chemistry and physics and stuff you had to have. And I was more interested in the situation of English and social studies and writing and journalism and stuff like that.”
After leaving Kennedy, Coghill moved to West Forsyth in 1973 as an English and social studies teacher, as well as working for the yearbook and school newspaper until 1984.
From 1984-2002, he started in In School Suspension (ISS), which was called CDC then, and he said the students called it “Coghill’s Day Care.”
In 1987, athletics training came about for Coghill because Principal Jerry Peoples of West Forsyth came to him and said, ‘Jim, don’t you volunteer at the Forsyth Hospital Emergency Department?” I said, ‘Yes,” and every Thursday evening he then said, ‘Go get you some CPR and first aid, and become our athletic trainer.’
There was more than just taking a few classes. North Carolina had three summer programs called “Teacher Athletic Trainer Instruction Program at then what was Bowman Gray School of Medicine.
“I went to these for three summers and was licensed by the State of North Carolina,” Coghill said.” At the time the athletic trainer at West was Ed “Doc” Sugg, who took me under his wings, giving me help and encouragement to be athletic trainer at West for 34 years.”
While still at West Forsyth, Coghill taught part-time position of job sharing in CDC/ISS from 2002-09. He still does some substitute teaching a couple times per week where he gets to spend time in what he calls “Titan Land.”
“I really and truly just sum it up this way — my career and the involvement with the educators, the coaches, the trainers, the student trainers, the people that I’ve gotten to know literally have made my life complete. Literally,” he said. “I mean I don’t think you can do things by yourself. In fact, I know you can’t.
“You’ve got to have help. You’ve got to have people that certainly will have faith in you, and trust in you, and at the same time, encourage you, and I certainly had that to happen.”
In addition to Bridges, Peoples and Sugg, Coghill has had plenty of other mentors. Those people are Norma Harbin, Doug Eury, Kurt Telford, and Charles McAninch — all of whom were principals at West Forsyth. Another person is Kevin Spainhour, the current principal at West Forsyth. He also had the chance to work with athletics directors Durwood Pack, T.R. Richards, and current Athletic Director Mike Pennington.
He has developed many friendships while at West Forsyth, including Coach Pat Murphy.
“He is such a wonderful friend to help me as he does,” Coghill said. “Pat actually got involved with West Forsyth through a fella named Dave McConnell (former assistant football coach at West Forsyth). And then of course we got to know each other and kid around and go to football games together, ride on the bus together and stuff like that.”
The other West Forsyth friendships are Jim Brown, Charles Beatty, Tim Combs, Bill Carr, Chris Elder, Gene Nail, Patrick O’Neal, Don Raines, John Pennington and Ciccocioppo.
In addition to Coghill, Peoples, Beatty, Pack, Fred Youngman, Brown and a few others associated with West Forsyth meet at Cracker Barrel on Wednesday mornings for breakfast.
West Forsyth has meant so much to Coghill. He has yearbooks from the past 54 years at the school, which pre-dates him. He goes and buys his own yearbook and has students sign it each year.
One person who had an impact on Coghill was former West Forsyth student and basketball player Chris Paul, who played at Wake Forest and is now in the NBA, playing for the Phoenix Suns. Paul signed his yearbook in 2002.
“The fact is that with Chris Paul he made a tremendous impact on me because of his being such a wonderful young man,” Coghill said. “And at the same time, allowing me to, I guess you might say be the athletic trainer to make decisions and tape his ankles, or do something from that standpoint.”
Coghill knew Paul from West Forsyth, but he had a chance to be a trainer at some of the Chris Paul Basketball Camps when Paul is in town.
“I have the fondest of memories and it’s made my life complete to think about the fact that maybe, and I didn’t necessarily touch everybody,” Coghill said. “I’m sure some people went astray and just said, ‘The heck with you, Mr. Coghill,’ and may have even said some bad words as they were running away from me.
“But at the same time, I have a feeling that somehow along the line that maybe I did influence people to the point of saying, ‘Oh, you know, that guy was kind of neighborly, noble and nice after all. And that’s probably the way we should be in life.”
Not only did West Forsyth pay big dividends professionally, he also married his wife Kathy in 1969, and they have two children, Courtney, who was born in 1971 and graduated from West Forsyth in 1989, and Brian, who was born in 1973 and graduated from West Forsyth in 1991. Coghill has two grandchildren, Brian and his wife, Heather, have a daughter Anna, 21, who is in a dance program in Savannah, Ga., and a son Grant, who will turn 20 later this month and is a sophomore at UNC Wilmington.
“Both Courtney and Brian graduated at West and played sports, and that was lots of fun, too, for Kathy and me, as well,” Coghill said.
While at West Forsyth with Paul, Coghill had a chance to meet Skip Prosser, the former basketball coach at Wake Forest, who was recruiting, and later coached Paul, there. Prosser also went to the same church as Coghill — Holy Family Catholic Church in Clemmons. Coghill even went to Prosser’s funeral there after he died in 2007.
“It was one of those things where I guess I started feeling so comfortable, and the fact is, the guy that was sitting up there and I was talking to, was actually the head coach of the basketball program there named Skip Prosser,” Coghill said.
Coghill lived most of the time in Clemmons on Forest Oak Drive, just one street over from West Forsyth, for 40 years before moving in 2014.
“It’s just one of those things where it’s unreal how the traffic is on Lewisville-Clemmons Road compared to many years ago,” he said. “And on Forest Oak Drive, which was next to the high school where we lived, it got to the point where they just had to make a right turn. You couldn’t make a left turn.”
Although Coghill is retired, in addition to being a substitute teacher at West, he can often be seen volunteering in the hospitality room before home football games.
“I had no earthly idea it would be like this,” Coghill said. “And a lot of it came about from the standpoint of maybe going into In-School Suspension or the old CDC program of ‘Coghill’s Day Care’ and all that.
“But the fact is, that all of a sudden, I realized that maybe I can have just a little tiny bit of influence on some people’s lives and help them out, if not only they are neighborly, noble and nice, but myself being — in other words I need to be neighborly, noble and nice in my activities.”