Pearl B (Silverman) Cohen

March 5, 2018

COHEN PEARL B. (SILVERMAN) Age 87, of Squirrel Hill, passed away on Monday,
March 5, 2018, at the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Squirrel
Hill, after a very brief infection, as a result of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The retired
social work professor was born on June 9, 1930 in Brooklyn, NY, to Charles and
Sarah Silverman. She was the first in her family to attend college (City College of
New York) and (despite a learning disability that got her sent to the “slow” class
while in school) went on, after raising two children, to receive a Ph.D. at the
University of Pittsburgh and to become a professor at West Virginia University,
Indiana State University, and Penn State, where she was beloved by many of her
students for her warm and informal style and creatively-conceived methods for
encouraging self-reflection and critical thinking. From a young age, she would
question her teachers and others on various topics and when their answers failed
to satisfy her, she would think through her own answers. When her son, Bret, did
not do as he was told as a child, she refused to except the conventional wisdom
that he needed to be punished for disobedience, and set out on a lifelong quest to
understand his disabilities and her own. She was decades ahead of her time in
criticizing the emphasis in the social work profession during the 1950s on solely
psychological and psychoanalytic factors, instead realizing the strong role played
by the social and societal context and the need for social support systems.
Shy and socially awkward as a child and young wife, she blossomed into an
extremely gregarious, funny, and curious woman, who would walk up to strangers
wherever she found herself and strike up a conversation with them about her and
their lives.
She was married to Theodore Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, at the
University of Pittsburgh, from 1954 until his death last December. During the
period before his death, during which he suffered from leukemia, she dedicated
herself totally and lovingly to caring for him, as she had affectionately done,
earlier, for her two children. She is survived by her son, Bret, in Germany, her
daughter, Rima, of Washington, DC, and two granddaughters.
The date and location of the memorial service have not yet been set.


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