Cover photo for Bernard C. Cohen's Obituary
Bernard C. Cohen Profile Photo

Bernard C. Cohen


Bernard Cecil Cohen died on January 9, 2024, in Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of 97. He was an esteemed political scientist, author, professor, and administrator, as well as a deeply loved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, mentor, and friend. 

 Bernie, as he was known by all, was born on February 22, 1926, in Northampton, Massachusetts, to Lena and Louis Cohen. In WWII, he was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and deployed briefly to Italy at the end of the war. He married Laura (Toby) Propper of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1947. Bernie received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, as well as his doctorate in international relations. He taught at Princeton University from 1951-1959. Bernie joined the UW-Madison faculty in 1959, chairing the Department of Political Science from 1966-1969. He served as associate dean of the Graduate School from 1971-1975, as vice chancellor for academic affairs from 1984-1986, and as acting chancellor in 1987. For most of three decades, Bernie’s routine on campus included a swim at the UW natatorium daily at noon, followed by an ice cream cone at Babcock Hall for lunch. He retired in 1990. 

Bernie was the author of four books including The Press and Foreign Policy (1963), which first brought him national prominence. His research took him to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California, in 1961-62 and 1969-70, and to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1975-76 and 1982. 

After retirement, Bernie and Toby spent time with three generations of family, both in Longboat Key, Florida, where Bernie served as President of the Bayport condominium association, and in Madison, where he served on the Capitol Lakes Residents Association Executive Committee. 

Everywhere he lived, Bernie forged lifelong collegial and personal friendships. He kept in touch with distant friends through phone calls and mail, and online via  email, text, video, and social media. Along with Toby, Bernie was a consummate host, always welcoming friends, visitors, students, and colleagues into their home. In recent years, he enjoyed his book club, lunch groups, and frequent dinners with friends and family. 

Bernie was a man of enormous warmth, integrity, and humor, and a dedicated grammarian, serving as a mentor to many and an editor to all. His knowledge and recall were legendary.  He could remember what he ordered at each restaurant on trips to Europe decades before, all the U.S. presidents in chronological order, definitions of almost any word in the English language, and telephone numbers and addresses from a lifetime of friendships. He is survived by his wife of 77 years, Laura (Toby) Cohen; daughters Barbara Cohen (Shmuel Inbar) of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Janie Cohen (Lawrence Crist) of Burlington, Vermont; grandchildren Sara Christopherson (Jonny Hunter) of Madison, Talia Inbar, Yaniv Inbar (Petra), and Yaara Inbar (Neer Roggel); and five great grandchildren, Marlo and Issa; Miriam, Tamara, and Noah.

Contributions may be sent in Bernard Cohen’s memory to the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, or to Capitol Lakes Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin. A private family gathering is planned for a future date. 


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