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College saddened by chemistry, history professors’ deaths

The campus community was saddened this month to learn of the deaths of two recently retired professors, Paul Cohen of the chemistry department and Joseph Ellis of the history department.

Cohen died on Oct. 4 and Ellis died on Oct. 5.

The news of Cohen’s death was particularly shocking for his former students, who did not receive a notification of death in their campus e-mail boxes. While an e-mail was sent, it was restricted to faculty and staff members.

The death notifications of faculty are not always sent to students, Florence Moonan, a secretarial assistant at the office of College and Community Relations, said.

Cohen taught at the College for 38 years, and had retired in July 2003. Cohen was born and raised in Brooklyn and received his bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College. He went on to the University of Illinois for his master’s degree and received a doctorate in education from Temple University.

Cohen was especially passionate when it came to field of chemistry. He served on the board of the Trenton chapter of the American Chemical Society and published two chemistry textbooks as well as numerous articles and papers.

Cohen traveled the world extensively with his wife, Brenda, and served as an exchange professor from the College in both Germany and England.

Cohen’s students remember him for being exceptionally personable and always having a sense of humor. They said he was especially caring toward each and every one of them.

“He was very open for people to come up and talk to him,” Joyce Shabo, senior chemistry major, said. Even just passing by in the hallway, she said, he would always stop to have a conversation with a student. “He genuinely cared,” she said.

Cohen also took the time to get his students involved with chemistry. “He would always encourage the students to sign up,” Matthew Repp, senior chemistry major, said, for organizations such as the Student Chemistry Association. This year, Repp is the president of that organization.

When it came to his students, Cohen was dedicated to making sure he was always available to lend a hand. “He was always ready to help you,” Repp said. It was this devotion and guidance that so strongly affected so many of his students.

Ellis taught in the history department for 38 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree from West Chester State Teacher’s College and a master’s degree from Temple University. He was born and raised in Philadelphia and retired to Florida last December.

In the mid-1950s, Ellis served as a third-class radarman aboard a destroyer in the U.S. Navy. He kept, and often shared with others, many fond memories about his experience and service.

Ellis dedicated much of his time at the College to supervising student teachers, as he came here in 1965 specifically for the education program. He spent nearly four decades devoted to the guidance of aspiring history teachers, making sure each of his students was fully prepared for his or her future.

Students and colleagues alike remember Ellis for a teaching style that was all his own. “He did things his own way,” David Smits, a fellow history professor, said. Smits remembers Ellis for always putting an emphasis on news and current events, making sure to keep both students and colleagues as informed as he could. Ellis also made use of visual aids and videos to make sure his students were getting the most out of their time.

Throughout his career at the College, Ellis kept an energetic and cheerful disposition. “He was a picture of vitality,” Smits said. Ellis was constantly moving and multitasking, but always managed to maintain his great sense of humor along with his infectious laugh. “He really enjoyed life,” Smits said. “I feel a real sense of loss.”

Daniel Crofts, head of the history department, recalled the words he spoke to Ellis upon his retirement last December: “For almost four decades you have helped the students in this department and the College. They know that you have been their friend and supporter. Your colleagues in the department will miss you too.”

Ellis is survived by his wife, children, a twin brother and his sisters.

Cohen is survived by his wife, son, daughter and three grandchildren.

Each also leaves behind a countless number of students and colleagues whose lives they touched.


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