Mark Coyne loved sailing, flying and Jimmy Buffett. But most of all, he loved teaching emergency medical services.
“Just a couple weeks ago, we were both talking shop about EMS,” said his friend, Todd Cole. “He said, ‘You know, I really make a difference with what I do. Teaching really means something. I’ve really affected a lot of people.’ “I said, ‘You absolutely have, Mark.’ It was one of those comments that was so true.”
Coyne, 54, was the nurse on board the Med Flight helicopter that crashed on Saturday night. He was also a full-time EMS instructor at Madison Area Technical College, where he had worked since 1987.
About three dozen of Coyne’s colleagues, friends and students gathered at MATC’s Commercial Avenue campus Sunday afternoon to talk about him and comfort each other.
Kathleen Sellnow, dean of human and protective services at MATC, estimated that Coyne had a hand in teaching thousands of emergency medical technicians and paramedics throughout the area.
“The numbers can’t even be counted,” said Cole, also a paramedic and an instructor at MATC. “That’s the ripple effect he had.”
Coyne lived in Waunakee. He is survived by his wife, Anne.
Coyne came to Wisconsin in 1981 to be a pediatric intensive care nurse at UW Hospital and Clinics. He was from Marathon, Fla.
“He wore shorts until he absolutely had to put long pants on,” said an MATC colleague, Rita Martin.
Six years after coming to Wisconsin, Coyne took the full-time job at MATC but remained at UW through Med Flight. Sellnow was impressed with the way Coyne continued to work in the field to keep his skills up and help inform his teaching.
“It’s hard to work two very intense jobs like that,” she said. “He worked every other weekend. That’s why I knew it was him when I saw the blurb go across the news (Sunday) morning. I knew.”
Martin and Coyne co-taught a basic EMT class this semester. The 26 students in the class have finished their 144 hours of training, but on Monday must set aside their grief to take their final exam. The national certification exam requires them to show their skills at five stations, followed by a written exam.
On Wednesday, Coyne had a message for his students.
“He told us we know it, that we should have fun with it,” said Tamara Zink.
Sellnow said Coyne taught about 100 students this semester in various levels of emergency services.
“Mark had a double impact,” she said. “He had the impact of being an EMS instructor and then sometimes he was that flight nurse that came off a Med Flight. Sometimes his students, his graduates would be taking care of the accident scene and he would come off of Med Flight.”
Being a Med Flight nurse was statement enough about Coyne’s skills, Sellnow said.
“Flight nurses are held in high regard in emergency medicine,” she said. “They have to be the top of the top because they’re the ones dispatched to the worst of the worst.”
Still, it was the teaching that brought Coyne his greatest joy, his friends and colleagues say.
“As an educator, you thrive on watching somebody you teach something to just light up, and Mark would do that,” Cole said. “One time when we were talking about teaching, he said ‘A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.’ It’s so true, and I look out here and I see all the candles he lit here and in the state of Wisconsin, it’s just amazing.”