Alice L. Cochran, historian and professor at Webster University, dies

Historians in the News

Alice L. Cochran, a historian and a professor at Webster University for nearly 40 years, died Saturday (June 27, 2009) after a stroke. She was 87.

Ms. Cochran was known for her dry wit and tenacity. In 1969, when she was paralyzed from the neck down by a nervous system disorder, she taught a History of the Americas course from her hospital bed by telephone. Another time, when she fell in class and broke her hip, she insisted she keep teaching the class, said a relative, Susan Scarpinato. After one hospital visit for surgery, recalled colleague Dan Hellinger, Ms. Cochran insisted on teaching the next day, and was literally wheeled into the classroom on her side.

Ms. Cochran was born in St. Louis and graduated from Wells College in New York, and received her master's and doctorate degrees in history from St. Louis University. She began teaching at Webster University in 1968, teaching courses in women's studies, early Russian history and colonial American History. She traveled nearly every summer or taught at the Webster University campuses in Europe. She retired as professor emerita in 1995.

Ms. Cochran was a firm believer in women's rights and broke many glass ceilings, Scarpinato said. While at Webster, she challenged the policy that the children of faculty members could attend the college for free, and suggested that childless faculty could sponsor a person of their choice to attend the school.
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