Remembering Carolyn Cohen (Sargent ’65)

It is with a heavy heart that I share Carolyn Cohen (Sargent ’65), a prolific community volunteer, retired educator, and beloved member of the Sargent community passed away on Saturday. She was 79.

Graduating from Sargent with a degree in physical education, Carolyn was a health and physical education teacher, coach, athletic director, and sports official at Boston Public Schools. She used her expertise to enrich many nonprofit organizations including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where she served on committees for health, physical education, and dance recreation. As a board member for the Institute for Human Centered Design, she advocated for and worked to advance quality of life for individuals needing special assistance. She helped certify high school and BU students on CPR and first aid techniques and was a softball officiant well into her 70s. A dedicated and passionate philanthropist, she volunteered for the American Red Cross for more than 25 years and was a friend of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops.

Those who met her knew Carolyn was the embodiment of Sargent Spirit. A proud Terrier, she devoted herself to a myriad of BU activities, events, and causes. Her dedication to improving the lives and communities of others was matched only by her deep compassion for her canine companions. Before the pandemic, it was common to see Carolyn walking the halls of Sargent, greeting students and staff as she and her greyhound Sneakers made their rounds. She and Sneakers (a particular favorite of recent graduates) were often invited guests for various student groups, one of the many ways she gave of her time and talents throughout BU.

Carolyn was also a vivid Sargent historian. She had a particularly interesting perspective on the College, attending the university when it was led by BU luminaries. She studied anatomy with Whitney R. Powers and attended English class taught by Ruth Setterberg (our second-floor lounge namesake) while under the leadership of Dean George Makechnie.

In 2020, Carolyn was one of the first guests on the Health Matters podcast where she spoke about her  time at Sargent including how Dean Makechnie broadened students’ worldview by bringing in notables of the day like Martha Graham and Howard Rusk: “One day we danced with Martha Graham, another day, we had a leading doctor…These were people we saw in our textbooks and all of a sudden they were before us.”  When Dean Makechnie required students to attend chapel, she also had opportunity to make the acquaintance of Howard Thurman, then Dean of Marsh Chapel. Despite her initial protest of the mandate (“but I’m Jewish!”), she found herself moved by Thurman’s sermons and enjoying the dances following chapel.

It was Dean Makechnie who got Carolyn involved as a student in alumni work which she faithfully continued throughout her life. She served on the Sargent College Alumni Association (SCAA) since graduation and was her class secretary for more than fifty years. She also served as SCAA president during Sargent’s centennial celebration from 1979-1984. Most recently, she was the SCAA reunion representative, helping to organize Alumni Weekend activities and award ceremonies. In 2015, she received the Dudley Allen Sargent Alumni Award in recognition of her meritorious service to the Alumni Association. She was an honorary Scarlet Key recipient in 1998, and she worked closely with the BU Scarlet Key Honor Society.

When the pandemic hit, the College launched the Sargent Cares fund to provide emergency aid for students. Carolyn was a leading donor to the fund and encouraged her class to allocate its 2020 reunion gift to the cause which helps students with urgent needs related to academics, housing, and more. This was just one of the many ways she embraced Sargent’s mission and vision of full participation for all. Her heartfelt commitment to the Sargent community and her profoundly positive outlook assured all of us that we could overcome challenges and create lasting change.

Seeing Carolyn was a high point of any day I encountered her. It is an understatement to say I will miss her deeply. And while it’s difficult to imagine our community without her, she has left an indelible legacy of compassionate service both here at Sargent and Boston University.

A service celebrating Carolyn’s life and legacy will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, March 21 at 10 a.m. at the Schlossberg Family’s Chapel in Canton, Mass. More details and an online page to share memories and condolences can be found here.

Dean and Professor

Chris Moore