Richard Cole

Richard Cole, Kansas University professor emeritus of philosophy, died peacefully at home after a long illness on April 2, 2013, at age 83. Plans for a memorial service in May are pending.

Richard Cole was born on October 28, 1929, in Evanston, IL, to Harry and Bertha Slavitt Cole. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Marjorie Emerson Cole; his brother, Arthur Cole; his sister, Muriel Treadwell; his three children, Mark Cole, Wendy Ashlock, and Aletha Musser; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Richard helped support his family by repairing radios. He continued this work while serving in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s, also serving as a journalist.

He earned a bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Texas in 1956. After working as a mathematician and programmer on some of the early computers for Douglas Aircraft Co. in Santa Monica, CA, and for Shell Oil Co. in Houston, TX, he decided to pursue an academic career and earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1962.

Professor Cole taught in the philosophy department at KU from 1965 until his retirement in 2001. Before coming to Lawrence, he taught at Colorado College, Grinnell College, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a visiting professor at the University of Iowa in 1983. His academic specialties were philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, logic, metaphysics, and the history of philosophy. During his tenure at KU, he taught many undergraduates, supervised 10 master’s theses and 12 doctoral dissertations, and was a member of the dissertation committee for 27 others.

Richard loved vigorous examination of ideas of all sorts and often had student groups in his home for discussion sessions on Sunday afternoons. He also enjoyed camping in national parks, walking with his dog, attending operas, and making bad puns. He was very proud of his children and grandchildren and will be much missed.

11 Condolences

  1. Julie McIntyre on April 4, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Marge, I am so sorry for your loss! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  2. Heather simons on April 5, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Marj, I am so sorry for your loss. I regret not staying in better contact, especially after Mama died. I will keep a watchful eye out for when the memorial occurs, as my child and I will definitely attend.

  3. Suzy Hill on April 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Marge, I’m so sorry about Richard. I will miss him in exercise class.

    Thinking of you.

  4. Anita Herzfeld on April 10, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Dear Marge,
    I am so terribly sorry to hear about your great loss. I am out of the country at the moment,but will stop to see you when I am back home. Meantime my thoughts are with you hoping that the memories of a wonderful relationship will bring you peace. Love, anita

  5. William O. Scott/Bill Scott on April 13, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    Dear Marjorie,
    I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Richard. He was a good philosopher, as far as I could tell, and definitely a good man. I still envision his rounds of campus, though I am in Seattle after my stroke. (I wonder how he survived the horrendous winter of Lawrence.) I think we shared a Chicago orthodoxy (with maybe a bit of heterodoxy

  6. William O. Scott/Bill Scott on April 13, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Deepest sympathy for a good man and a true model of a professional.

  7. Susan Hickam on April 14, 2013 at 7:01 am

    So sorry to hear of Mr. Cole’s passing-my heart and my prayers are with you while you grieve his presence with you on a daily basis. I remember always feeling welcomed your home as a young girl when I tagged along with my sisters and their friends. Thank you for your kindnesses.

  8. joanne chappell on April 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I am sorry to hear about your loss. I maybe met your husband once, but I know your children.

  9. Juana L. Simons on April 15, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Marjorie, Mark, Wendy and Aletha – please accept my condolences for your loss. I remember you all and your home with great fondness. I am in Lawrence, so please call on me if you need anything.

  10. Jim and Laurie Swindler on April 15, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Our deepest condolences. Richard was a wonderful man, a great teacher and mentor, and a good friend. He left a deep impression on our lives. We are forever grateful for having known you both and we mourn your loss.
    Jim and Laurie Swindler

  11. Steve Blair, retired from teaching and still a professional student at age 68. If prof. cole published his book on theory of knowledge or any opinions on aquiness, I would like to read them. on April 17, 2023 at 9:14 am

    Prof. Richard Cole was my professor for theory of knowledge and probably for other classes too, but I can’t recall the other classes. If he ever published his book on theory of knowledge I would like to read it. He was just as absent minded as I have always been and I always felt that he was a kindred spirit. He often forgot which books he had assigned for the class. I would love to know his opinion of Aquinas if he had published anything on that author, but when he told us to open our copies of a book on Aquinas his students had to remind him that he had forgotten to assign the book so no one had bought it. This lapse of memory in no way diminishes my admiration for prof. Cole. Unfortunately, I had to leave Lawrence in late 1989 and by the time I had returned in 2023, he had already passed away. If he were still living I would certainly visit him although he certainly would not have remembered me, because I did not distinguish myself as a student but I refected on everything he said and regret that I cannot discuss it with him now that I have matured a lot and have formed my own, more mature opinions which I certainly would have discussed with him, including an opinion he expressed on Shakespeare. A woman who knew both Prof. Cole and myself, told me that I would be exactly like him when I grew up, and that is true in personality, although our sphere’s of knowlege are very, very different and I was not able to complete my master’s degree in philosophy while he had a Phd. but I did teach English literature for 21 years and I brought a bit of Prof. Cole into the classroom, but I forgot about him after I moved away from Lawrence and those memories of him and the early draft of his book on the theory of knowledge, came flooding back, when I moved back to the city of my alma mater in May of this year. Prof. Cole used to delight the class by grinning, putting a cigar butt in his mouth which barely protruded enought to be even with his beard and we watched in astonished delight as he lit the cigar butt without singing his beard. One day I saw him walking down a sidewalk in Lawrence and I just felt like going up to him and giving him a big hug, because he meant so much to me as a teacher, but of course I didn’t even tell him how much he meant to me. I can’t recall if that was in 1978 or so or in the 1980s. I was a very unremarkable student who didn’t say very much in his his classes and sometimes drew a couple of pretty good caricatures of him in my notes, but I think I had to throw my notebooks away when I moved outside the U.S.. So, if Prof. Cole’s friends and relatives and children and grandchildren ever read this, they can take satisfaction that he had a major impact on a student who was so unintrusive in the class that I didn’t stand out at all. I do remember that Prof. Cole graded the paper I wrote for the class that permitted me to earn a B.A. in philosophy in 1978, but I can’t recall the name of the class and I had to throw my essay away when I left the U.S. Sigh. I do remember he once said to the class, when he lectured on skepiticism “It’s hard to be skepitical in ethics, without being a real SOB.” and that’s really true. Well, in class, he seemed to me to me one of the kindest, wisest most charitable gifted philosophers in a department that had many good professors and his impact on me shows how influential a wise, kind professor could be on even an underachiever like myself whom he didn’t realize he had impacted and the gratitude of former students is part of the reward for a great professor’s grandchildren

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