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David Harris Cohen to Step Down as Vice President for Arts and Sciences after the Next Academic Year

David Harris Cohen

David Harris Cohen has announced that he will step down as Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences following the 2002-2003 academic year. He has served in his current post since 1995.

In a May 21 letter to the faculty, Cohen wrote, "Well before President Rupp announced his plans, I had assumed it would be appropriate for me to alter course at the age of 65, a milestone I will realize at the end of the next academic year. There are many things I would like to do that have been postponed because of the relentless press of administrative responsibilities. It is now time to pursue those threads of my professional life.

"Further, it has long been my conviction that there is a 'lifetime' for academic administrators and it is in the institutional interest that there be change."

Cohen is responsible for overseeing 29 departments of instruction in the humanities and physical and social sciences, and faculty of Columbia College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of International and Public Affairs, the School of General Studies, Continuing Education and the School of the Arts.

His many accomplishments at Columbia include:

  • Increasing the distinction of Arts and Science departments, most notably anthropology, economics and physics;
  • Fostering an environment of scholarship across departmental and school borders;
  • Improving funding for Arts and Science graduate students and enhancing their academic experience;
  • Balancing the Arts and Sciences budget, making the administration more efficient, and creating a sense of forward momentum among the faculty; and
  • Implementing a faculty-driven academic review process.

"From his expert management of the Arts and Science budget and administration to his vision for enhanced academic disciplines and new scholarly collaborations, David Cohen has played a vital role in the advances that Columbia University has achieved in recent years," said President George Rupp. "I am delighted that he will be staying on during the first year of Lee Bollinger's administration, and I wish him all the best for the years after that."

Said President-elect Lee Bollinger, "David Cohen deserves the highest praise for having accomplished what he came to Columbia to do as Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences. The academic and financial picture is significantly brighter under his tenure. We can expect no more of an academic administrator. I am pleased to have next year to work with David."

Provost Jonathan Cole added, "Dave Cohen has done remarkable things as Vice President and Dean of Arts and Sciences. A man of enormous energy, intelligence, strength, and wit, David developed and implemented the Graduate School Enhancement Plan, which has begun to transform graduate education at Columbia; he has institutionalized a faculty review process for every department and has used those reviews for purposes of improving the quality of the arts and sciences; he has brought back to true distinction many departments that had slipped; he has fostered 'scholarship without borders' and has collaborated effectively with other schools to create important joint appointments; he has balanced the arts and sciences budget in a most rigorous way; and he has improved faculty relations through close cooperation and through furthering faculty governance.

"When we brought Dave Cohen to Columbia seven years ago, I had lofty ambitions for him and the arts and sciences. He has exceeded my greatest expectations and he has been a wonderful partner."

In his letter to the faculty, Cohen described his time at Columbia as enormously rewarding. "Together, we have, I believe, substantially advanced the Arts and Sciences," he wrote. "I am deeply grateful for your essential contributions to that common cause. It has truly been a collegial effort, and you should rightfully take pride in what has been accomplished. A university is its faculty; administrators are enablers.

"This is also a fitting opportunity to acknowledge the consistent support I have received from the senior administration. In particular, President Rupp and Provost Cole have been staunch advocates for the Arts and Sciences and have contributed immeasurably to its welfare. I will miss working with them. I look forward to working with President-elect Bollinger next year. Based upon my conversations with him, I can assure you of his deep commitment to and high aspirations for the Arts and Sciences.

"I will not be leaving Columbia. After the proverbial well-earned leave, my plan at this time is to return to the faculty. I look forward to maintaining the friendships I have established with many of you and to continuing to contribute to the Arts and Sciences."

Cohen, an eminent neurobiologist, received his A.B. magna cum laude with highest honors from Harvard in 1960 and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1963.

Before coming to Columbia, where he is also professor of biological sciences and of psychiatry, Cohen was provost at Northwestern University, and prior to that, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School there. Under his leadership as vice president, Northwestern nearly tripled its research budget from $59 million to $170 million. And during his three years as provost, he fostered an emphasis on multi-disciplinary projects, creating linkages across departments and between schools.

From 1979 to 1986, Cohen held numerous positions at SUNY-Stony Brook, including Leading Professor and chairman of neurobiology, and from 1968 to 1979, he served as associate professor and professor of physiology and chairman of neuroscience at the University of Virginia.

Cohen, who began his academic teaching career as assistant professor of physiology at Western Reserve, was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Physiology and the Brain Research Institute at UCLA in 1963-64.

Cohen has served as president of the Society for Neuroscience and vice president of the National Society for Medical Research.

He was chairman of the Association of American Medical Colleges in 1989-90 and was chairman of that organization's advisory panel on biomedical research from 1990 to 1992.

For several years he was a member of the advisory committee for the Directorate of Biological, Behavioral and Social Sciences for the National Science Foundation.

He has been associate editor of the journals Experimental Neurology and The Journal of Neuroscience.

He helped lead the training and infrastructure panel of the National Task Force on the National Institutes of Health Strategic Plan in 1992.

Cohen served as a member of the executive committee of the Governor's Scientific Advisory Committee of the State of Illinois, and was a member of the advisory committee of the Illinois State Board of Education's Illinois Scientific Literacy Program from 1989 to 1991.

He is a director of the Research Libraries Group and former chairman of the scientific and technical advisory committee of the Board of Governors of Argonne National Laboratory, and former chairman of the administrative committee of the board of overseers of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

He has written approximately 100 scientific articles, chapters and abstracts and 30 non-scientific articles.

He is married to Anne H. Remmes and they have five children.

Published: May 21, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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