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Queens College mourns death of former President Saul Cohen

Former Queens College President Saul B. Cohen. (Courtesy of Queens College)

Queens College is mourning the loss of former College President Saul Cohen, who, on June 9, died at the age of 95 at home surrounded by his family.

Cohen served as president of Queens College from 1978 to 1985. In a statement, Queens College President Frank Wu said Cohen’s “exemplary service to the college is legendary.” 

“I have heard him spoken of many times with great admiration and appreciation,” Wu said. “Through his persistent advocacy, he was responsible for securing funding for key capital projects, many of which we are still reaping the benefits of today, including the Benjamin Rosenthal Library, the Copeland School of Music Building, science facilities and Townsend Harris High School.” 

Cohen, a Massachusetts native, earned his doctorate from Harvard University in 1955. Prior to his arrival at Queens College, he was the director of, and a professor in, the Graduate School of Geography at Clarke University in Worcester, MA, before becoming a dean. After leaving Queens College, Cohen was a professor of geography at Hunter College for 10 years. In 1993, he was elected to the New York State Board of Regents. There, he chaired the Elementary, Middle and Secondary Committee when it established new academic standards for the school. 

In learning a little about Cohen’s life, Wu came across his advocacy for minority students, he said. 

“While at Clarke University, he was particularly interested, and successful, at bringing minority students into the geography program,” Wu said. “This was sparked by an experience early in the civil rights movement, when there was a debate among members of the Association of American Geographers over whether it should hold its meetings in segregated southern cities.” 

According to Wu, Cohen said they should not and became convinced that it was important to “attract Black students to quality programs so they in turn could make a dent in the quality of teaching of later Black students.” 

Wu said Cohen’s “outstanding commitment to education and higher education will long be remembered.” 

Cohen’s graveside funeral was held on Friday, June 11, at Mt. Eden Cemetery —  a final resting place to those of the Jewish faith — at 20 Commerce St. in Hawthorne. Shiva will be observed at 7 Poplar Rd. in Larchmont, from Sunday, June 13, through Thursday, June 17, from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; and Friday, June 18, from 2 to 5 p.m.

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