Eager Teacher

May/June 2010

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Eager Teacher

Courtesy Cohen Family

When radiation therapy for a brain tumor left Adam Cohen bereft of his ability to read, the Shakespeare scholar sought new ways to engage his subject. "From the ashes of my studies emerged flesh and blood people on stage in Shakespeare's time with whom my disability allowed me to connect," he wrote. "My experience with illiteracy gave me unique insights into how the technology of the printing press changed Shakespeare's plays."

Cohen, '93, died January 2 at his home in Marion, Mass. He was 38.

At Stanford, Cohen discovered his love of literature in English professor John L'Heureux's classroom and abroad at the Stanford in Oxford program. After graduation, he spent a year traveling. In Kenya, a young teacher invited him to teach an English lesson. "Have you ever been in a situation where being from a different group had an impact on your life?" he asked the class as they discussed Romeo and Juliet. The students discovered common ground in stories of class and tribal consciousness. Cohen made his own discovery: He loved teaching.

"His ability to draw in an audience (in a play, in the classroom, in a conversation) came from his natural desire to create a circle that would link people's feelings and experiences to each other no matter how disparate they were," friend David Valdes, '93, wrote in an email.

Cohen earned his master's and doctorate in English literature at the University of Virginia and, in 2005, joined the faculty at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Cohen's scholarship, including two books, examined the relationship between drama and technological developments in the early modern world—from cartography to navigation, military engineering to innovations in print.

He is survived by his wife, Debra Bauer Cohen; daughters Hailey and Lauren; his parents, Max and Leslie Cohen; sisters Heather Cohen Henri, '96, and Robyn Cohen; and his grandmother Mildred Krupsaw.

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