Joseph Phillip Cohen
Joseph Phillip Cohen

October 30, 1934 - February 19, 2019
Born in Baltimore, Maryland
Resided in Annapolis, Maryland
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Obituary

Joseph P. Cohen died in hospice care on February 19, 2019, held by his wife and children. Joe was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, teacher, and friend. A long-time Annapolis resident, Joe was one of the longest-serving faculty members at St. John’s College.
Joe was born October 30, 1934, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Esther (Newman) and Irving Cohen. His father died when Joe was a baby, and Joe was raised by his mother, a sweet and beautiful woman from small-town Pennsylvania. His mother remarried when Joe was twelve, and Joe gained a brother, Morris Goodman, when he was thirteen.
Joe was awarded a Maryland state senatorial scholarship to attend St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, which had adopted a liberal arts education model in which all students studied the same canonical texts and were guided in inquiry and discussion by the faculty. He graduated in 1956 and went on to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, where he studied political philosophy with Leo Strauss. When he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1957, Joe qualified for a deferment but decided to serve his term of duty, after first completing summer studies at the University of Vienna. Joe returned to the University of Chicago after his Army service, where he continued his studies and taught in the University’s Liberal Arts program for adult learners. In 1962, before Joe had completed a dissertation, a mentor at St. John’s offered him a faculty position there, and Joe accepted. He taught there for over 49 years, in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, including a few summers at the campus in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Joe also studied law at Yale University, Catholic University, and the University of Maryland, earning a J.D.
Joseph married Sandra Jackson in 1964. They settled in Annapolis, where Joe lived for the remainder of his life, except for sabbatical years at Yale University and Oxford University. They raised three children in a home filled with books and with his wife’s paintings. They enjoyed travel, including to East Africa, Greece, Israel, Italy, Mexico, the Galapagos and Indonesia.
Joe embodied a life of intellectual engagement. With students, colleagues, family, and even people he had only just met, Joe engaged in thoughtful questioning and discussion, and he applied the same approach to texts. He found an ideal home at St. John’s, where he engaged with colleagues and with generations of students on the profound questions posed by its Great Books program. Joe’s focus was moral philosophy, in particular the works of Spinoza and Maimonides. Whether through his long contemplation of these thinkers or his natural temperament, Joe’s decency, compassion, and gentleness were the touchstones of his long and good life.
Joe leavened his serious studies with a deep enjoyment of humor. A teller of bad jokes and an appreciator of good ones - especially when recounted by his brother Morris - Joe’s laughter was infectious. He enjoyed live theater and showed an aptitude for carpentry.
Towards the end of his life, Joe was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He accepted this diagnosis with bravery and dignity. Even as his practical capabilities diminished, his pleasure in reading remained, and his gentle, patient, and loving nature never left him.
Joe is survived by his wife, Sandra (Sandy) Jackson Cohen; three children, Nathaniel Cohen of Washington, D.C., Julia Judish of Arlington, Virginia, and Joshua Cohen of Annapolis, Maryland; three children-in-law, Lynn Parseghian, Nathan Judish, and Lesley Donoho-Cohen; six grandchildren, Alexa, Charlotte, Jesse, Max, Naomi, and Tessa; and his nephews and nieces, Andrew Goodman and Alex Goodman, and Adam Rice, Jennifer Rice Murphy, and Melissa Rice. Joe was preceded in death by his brother, Morris Goodman.
A graveside burial service will be held on Friday, February 22, 2019, at 1 p.m., at Cedar Bluff Cemetery in Annapolis. The pedestrian entrance to the cemetery is near the intersection of Northwest Street and W. Washington Street; public parking is available in the Whitmore Garage on W. Washington Street. The family will receive visitors after the service in the social rooms at Acton’s Landing condominiums on 66 Franklin Street; there is an accessible entrance on Richard’s Lane. The family plans to hold a memorial service and celebration of life in the coming months.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Johnnie Scholarship Fund at St. John’s College: https://community.stjohnscollege.edu/giving.

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Graveside Service
Cedar Bluff Cemetery
Washington Street
Annapolis, MD US 21401
February 22, 2019
1:00 PM
Burial
Cedar Bluff Cemetery
Washington Street
Annapolis, MD US 21401
February 22, 2019