Former WU professors remembered for lasting legacy

Brittany Bernick

Photos of Sheldon and Virginia Cohen adorned tables as friends, family, associates and students gathered July 19 to celebrate the lives of these former Washburn University professors.

The Cohens were two of five people killed in a crash on I-70 July 11. They are survived by their three children and three grandchildren.

The memorial service was held in the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and over 150 people attended. Friends and family talked about their memories with the Cohens at the service. A reception followed.

The Cohens have been part of the Washburn University family since the 1960s. Virginia was a professor of biology for seven years beginning in 1961. Virginia remained involved in activities at Washburn, but retired and raised their three children.

Sheldon left behind a strong legacy in the chemistry department due to his active involvement. He started as a professor of chemistry in 1960 and progressed up to chairman of the chemistry department from 1967 to 1982.

He became the academic vice president from 1982 to 1984 and held the role of executive director of planning from 1991 to 1999.

“Their legacy will be the thousands of students’ futures they touched,” said Jerry Farley, Washburn University President. “They were truly an iconic part of the Washburn experience for students.”

At the service, speaker after speaker shared their sentiments about the impacts the Cohens had on so many lives, demonstrating the important role they filled in the university’s history.

“When you think of Sheldon and Virginia, I hope that you are flooded with memories,” Farley said. “It’s those memories that will keep them with us forever.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations towards the Cohen Fund for Excellence in the Sciences of Washburn University. Checks can be made out to Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation.