Ralph Alan Cohen, a distinguished professor of English at James Madison University and a founder of Shenandoah Shakespeare, will leave JMU to become professor this fall in the Mary Baldwin University Department of English and in the college’s graduate program in Shakespeare studies. Cohen will continue as executive director and director of education at Shenandoah Shakespeare, based at Blackfriars Playhouse, the only authentic re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre — a project that he oversaw.
“Mary Baldwin is extremely fortunate to have Ralph Cohen join its faculty,” said Jeffrey L. Buller, dean of the college. “He brings our master of letters/master of fine arts program a level of expertise that we just couldn’t have found anywhere else. We know Ralph well — he was one of our consultants when we designed that program — and we’re certain that he and Mary Baldwin University are a perfect match for each other.”
Cohen, who earned an undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and a master’s and Ph.D. at Duke University, has taught courses at Mary Baldwin. He said he is delighted to become a full-time faculty member. “The graduate students are first-rate, and I want to do what I can to make the program worthy of them,” he said. “So far it has succeeded beyond our expectations, and I am now convinced that it will soon be the best place anywhere to get an advanced degree in the teaching and performance of Shakespeare.”
At JMU, Cohen has been honored as teacher of the year and as an “eminent scholar.” He received Virginia’s outstanding faculty award in 1987, the first year it was given. He has an honorary degree from Georgetown University.
A scholar, writer, and editor, Cohen also has directed 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including two productions of the playwright’s favorite play Antony and Cleopatra and the first professional production of Richard III to use a woman in the title role. With the reconstructed Globe theatre in London, Cohen runs a summer Shakespeare institute that concentrates on plays in performance. He has directed National Endowment for the Humanities institutes on Renaissance staging and performance.
A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Cohen founded JMU’s studies abroad program, which has locations in London, Paris, Florence, and Salamanca.
Buller said Cohen’s hiring was made possible in part by a five-year grant awarded to the college last year by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, based in Philadelphia.
Mary Baldwin University, with a main campus in Staunton, Virginia, and five regional centers, excels in providing leadership training, character development, and career preparation with a strong academic foundation. A master’s level university, Mary Baldwin offers three undergraduate residential programs for women — the Traditional Program for Women, the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership — as well as coeducational, nonresidential bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Mary Baldwin offers the B.A. and/or the B.S. in more than 30 majors, the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), the Master of Letters (M.Litt.) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance, and post-graduate teacher licensure (PGTL). Mary Baldwin is the oldest women’s college in America affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and was the first women’s college to be granted a circle of the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa. It is one of only 262 colleges and universities to shelter a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society.