Nov. 7, 1929 - Dec. 1, 2016
Margaret "Peggy" Cohn (nee Foreman), age 87, died on Dec. 1, 2016, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Born in Jacksonville, Illinois, Peggy earned her AB in biology from Illinois College and her MS from the University of Washington, pursuing research in Lake Washington and Haller Lake, despite the insistence of her male colleagues that zoology was not an appropriate field for a woman. While at the University of Washington, she also spent time at the Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island and at the University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station at Yellow Bay. She proceeded to earn her PhD in zoology from Yale University, where she specialized in limnology (freshwater biology). Peggy had a particular fondness for the delicate little daphnia, the microscopic creature that was the focus of her dissertation research. A walk in the woods with her was always a lovely journey in botany and zoology.
It was at Yale that she met and married Norman Cohn. The Cohns made their home in Athens. Peggy struggled against continued discrimination against women in zoology, eventually making a place for herself through teaching courses at Ohio University as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Zoology beginning in 1975. In 1977, she took on what was nominally a part-time (but in fact a more than full-time) position as Ombudsman. Peggy's compassion and sense of justice, combined with her iron will, made her a formidable champion of the down-trodden and underrepresented at the university. As Ombudsman, she was instrumental in creating the Affirmative Action Committee that prepared comprehensive grievance procedures for all university departments.
In 1972, Peggy joined the new Honors Tutorial College as assistant director, becoming its director in 1977 and dean in 1991. Beginning with recruitment and admission, including financial aid, through to graduation and beyond, Peggy followed every "HTC" student with such care that she became known to all the students as "Ma Cohn." She took pleasure not only in her students' academic accomplishments but also in their personal growth. Peggy served as chair of the National Collegiate Honors Council Board of Directors for many years. Additionally she was a consultant to school districts in the tri-state area on Talented and Gifted programs (TAG) to ensure that students who did not fit the mold did not fall between the cracks. In this capacity she also belonged to the Athens Association for the Gifted Child.
From 1980-1981, Peggy took a leave of absence from Ohio University to serve at the National Science Foundation in Washington D.C. As a Program Manager, she continued her deep and abiding interest in advocating for science education and the furthering of women in the sciences. On her return to Ohio University, Peggy served on the Ohio Board of Regents FIPSE Task Force on Assessment, the University Curriculum Council, the Mentorship Committee (of which she was the chair), the Advisory Board of the Contemporary History Institute, and the Summer Workshop to Develop Tier III Courses (of which she was co-chair). With her husband, Norman, she developed and taught a Tier III course titled, "Who Controls Science?" exploring the external pressures on scientists, access to science, and the dissemination of scientific discoveries.
Peggy gave of her time to numerous civic causes throughout her life. From 1984-1994, she was elected to several terms on the Athens City Council. She led a movement to add sexual orientation as a protected category to the city's anti-discrimination code, an issue about which she felt very strongly. Shortly after leaving council, Peggy was appointed to the Athens County Planning Commission and the Police Review Board. In her capacity as a member of the American Association of University Women, Peggy brought together "town and gown," a valuable contribution to a sometimes divisive situation. From 1990-1994 she was the president of the Community Improvement Corporation and a member of the board of directors of the Athens Chamber of Commerce. Peggy retired from Ohio University as dean emerita in 1995, but continued to be involved in the community and the arts. She had several exhibits of her photographic transfers, and took pleasure in the process of creation.
Peggy was a lifelong member of the League of Women Voters and worked tirelessly at both local and state levels for voter registration; as recently as September of this year, she helped to register voters at the Schenley Gardens assisted living facility in Pittsburgh. One of Peggy's most lasting accomplishments was the 2009 founding (with her husband and Ted and Sue Foster) of the Athens Village, which continues to allow its Athens County members to live independently and safely through a cooperative arrangement. Even when being confined to home after an injury, she did research by internet to keep the Athens Village aware of good ideas from other groups.
Academic awards and honors Peggy earned included Phi Beta Kappa; Society of the Sigma Xi; AAUW Predoctoral Fellow; Educational Fellow, Institute of Educational Leadership (George Washington University); and Outstanding Alumna Citation, Illinois College. In 2011 Peggy and her husband Norman were recipients of the Ohio "Joined Hearts in Giving Award" at the Governor's Mansion in Columbus for their volunteer work on the Athens Village and other public service. In 2012 Peggy was given the "Woman of the Year Award" by the Pink Tea Committee of the Ohio Health O'Bleness Hospital in recognition of her public service.
Though Peggy loved Athens and loved to travel the world, Montana was the place she felt most at home. Starting as a young girl she spent summers in Montana, first on Lake MacDonald in Glacier Park and later on the North Fork of the Flathead River. She said that when she was tired with the world, she liked to lean her eyes up against the mountains. She was passionate about the preservation of the land - the wolves, the loons, the grizzlies and the entire ecosystem. She knew the names of more types of ferns and mosses than anyone else in the family.
Peggy is survived by her brother Mike Foreman of Minneapolis, Minnesota and brother-in-law Alan Cohn of Bradenton, Florida, as well as her children Jason and Pam of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Nick and Pim of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Alison and Ralph of Tucson, Arizona; and grandson Christopher of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, granddaughter Susannah of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and granddaughter Niko of Tucson, Pennsylvania. We all miss her compassion and guidance.
A service will be held on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. at Jagers & Sons Funeral Home, 24 Morris Ave., with a graveside service at Alexander Cemetery.
Donations may be made in memory of Peggy Cohn to the National League of Women Voters at P.O. Box 11036 Lewiston, ME 04243.
Please share a memory at www.jagersfuneralhome.com