The 2020 UCLA Award for Community Service is presented to Wilfred “Bill” Coggins for his dedication to the well-being of his community. Coggins’ enduring legacy is the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center, where he served as executive director until his retirement in 1998. The Center, which Kaiser Permanente calls “the jewel in its crown,” helps families achieve academic and personal success for free or at minimal cost, whether or not they are Kaiser Permanente members.
Following the Watts Rebellion of 1965, Coggins, a Fulbright Scholar at the Tavistock Clinic in London, was hired by Kaiser Permanente in South Los Angeles to develop a program that would meet the social and emotional needs of the Watts neighborhood. Through Coggins’ leadership, the Center became a leading institution in community service.
Coggins devoted himself to helping others, serving as a social work technician in the army, then as a social investigator for the New York City Department of Welfare. In 1955, Coggins earned his M.S.W. from UCLA, then worked as a psychiatric social worker for several organizations, among them the Veterans Administration and the Suicide Prevention Center.
Coggins established trust with the community to create an organization that serves as an essential mental health and educational resource. Today, the Center offers counseling in both English and Spanish, educational therapy for children with learning difficulties, a full-day early childhood education program, and outreach efforts to help students of all ages achieve academic and personal success. Additionally, the Center is able to offer graduate level training and supervised internships for students earning their M.S.W., M.F.T. and educational therapy degrees.
Bill Coggins has been called the heart and soul of the Center, which continues to thrive due to his creative and thoughtful leadership that benefited generations of Watts residents, living up to its motto: “Helping People Grow.” In May 2018, Coggins became the first-ever recipient of the UCLA Luskin Department of Social Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award.