Obit: Legacy of poly-sci professor extends beyond classroom

With the passing away of Professor Emeritus George Cole on June 10, the University of Connecticut lost one of its most notable luminaries in the field of political science.  Cole, who was 80 years old, died at his home in Mansfield.

“I loved George’s laughter and was impressed (and at times was intimidated) by the breadth of his knowledge, from shepherding to historiography,” Professor of Political Science Cyrus Zirakzadeh said.

Cole was born to Canadian immigrant parents on March 18, 1935 in Plainville, Massachusetts.  Following his graduation from the University of Massachusetts in 1956, he began serving in the United States Air Force, and a year later he married his life long partner Joan Washburn.

After serving in the military, Cole continued his educational pursuit, ultimately receiving his Ph. D from the University of Washington. After initially teaching at Allegheny College, he joined the UConn Political Science Department in 1969.

“Within the department, George’s devotion to all graduate students was legendary,” Zirakzadeh said. “His patient, nurturing, and joyful relationship with his doctoral students became a model for younger members of the faculty, like me.”

Throughout his career Cole had been the recipient of many honors such as two Fulbright-Hays awards, becoming a Fellow at the National Institute of Justice and serving as the chairman of the UConn Political Science Department.

Zirakzadeh recalls a particular incident, which demonstrated to him just how indelible of a mark Cole had left in the field of criminal justice.

“When I first arrived at UConn, I visited Cambridge and had dinner with an assistant professor of public law at Harvard University,” Zirakzadeh said.

“He told me that George’s text on criminal justice was famous throughout the nation and was considered the standard treatment of the field at major law schools, including the University of Michigan, where the professor had earned his JD and PhD.”

Cole was an avid traveler and through the Fulbright-Hays Program was able to conduct criminal justice research in England and the former nation of Yugoslavia.

He eventually retired from the University of Connecticut in 1997.

During his memorial service on June 20, Cole’s family requested that instead of receiving flowers, donations be made to the UConn Foundation to support the George F. Cole Dissertation Fellowship. This award is bestowed on a political science graduate student who is working on a dissertation in public law.

“I know of no one more committed (than Cole) to the future of the political science department at UConn.” Zirakzadeh said.

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