Donna K. Cohen ’73MEd, 1943-2010

Much-loved Librarian

By Lorrie Kyle Ramey ’70

Donna Cohen

Early in January 2010, Rollins lost a much-loved member of its community: Donna Kravetz Cohen ’73MEd, Director Emerita of the Olin Library. Cohen and her husband, Edward H. Cohen, Rollins’ William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English, were visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of their favorite destinations, when she suffered a stroke and cerebral aneurysm.  

Cohen was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in nearby Maryland. While earning her bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Maryland, she met her future husband. They married after her graduation and moved to New Mexico, where he completed his doctorate. The couple moved to Rollins and Winter Park in 1967. She focused on caring for their sons, Andrew and Jonathan, then became a Rollins student, earning her first master’s degree, an MEd in reading, which she put to work as a special-education librarian with Orange County Public Schools. In 1982, she acquired an MS of Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Shortly after the opening of Rollins’ new Olin Library in 1985, Cohen became its head of acquisitions. It was a position her husband described as perfect for her: “She loved to shop, and she loved books. This job allowed her to shop for books!”

In 1999, Cohen was named director of the Olin Library, a post she held until her retirement in 2006. During that time, she worked to make the library a welcoming research and study destination, eliminating the “Do Not”s associated with so many library experiences. She was also a champion for information literacy, actively advocating for its inclusion in every Rollins graduate’s skill set. A dedicated researcher herself, Cohen specialized in the history of libraries, particularly the products of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy, such as Rollins’ first library building, Carnegie Hall.

Cohen’s many friends remember her warmth, intelligence, and vitality, recalling a woman who loved dancing, cooking, travel, and, of course, reading. As Rollins president Lewis Duncan said at the campus celebration of Cohen’s life, “She combined the best of our institutional aspirations…all while being a successful, thoughtful, graceful, helpful colleague, friend, mother, and wife.”