From the first day he set foot on campus, Jeff Cogan stood out from his classmates. It was not the Spartanburg, SC, accent. It was Jeff’s infectious good spirits, warm smile and disarming personality. Jeff was a character in almost every regard.
Jeff’s cars were the stuff of legend. His grey Volvo station wagon with the “Nuke the Baby Whales” bumper sticker shocked the politically correct set. His drives to and from DKE during sophomore year via the “Bat Cave” entrance did not help the landscaping but were adventurous. The “Shark” car of junior year—a large brown Buick with a prominent shark decal on the back—spearheaded many rugby trips and was loaned out freely by Jeff. While his Shell gas credit card in effect made gas free for him (his grandfather worked for Shell Oil), Cogan frequently ran out of gas. One night, the Shark headed to Smith with Pat Fitzgerald ’82 driving. With a Shell station approaching, Cogan assayed the gas tank indicator, which clearly pointed to “empty.” Cogan decided that they should bypass the Shell station as they “probably” had enough gas to make it to Smith and back. They did not. The power gave out—and with it the brakes and steering—just where two lanes merged into one and a panicked Fitz pulled off the road and onto a grass strip at the side of Route 9. Cogan alertly spotted a Five College bus approaching the nearby stop and insisted that dealing with the car could await the return trip. Fitz made sure to lock all the doors to secure the car, though in his haste he locked the keys in the car and left the headlights on. Knowing this, Jeff still insisted that worrying about the car could wait. It waited. By the time Jeff returned to get the car days later, it had been towed. That was the end of the Shark. And that was Cogan’s easygoing character to a tee.
Cogan had an incredible sense of humor. His one successful foray into student government was his election onto the ever important library committee on a two plank candidacy. As his campaign statement in the Amherst Student dryly attested, “If elected, I will burn all the books on Russian literature as the commie threat is the biggest threat we face today”; and secondly, “Whoever designed the floor numbering of Frost Library: why does it go C, B, A, 1, 2 & 3? This is very confusing and may get students lost.” While neither campaign pledge was actually realized, Jeff swept into office as a populist. Jeff introduced First Floor James to his eclectic musical tastes: the Ramones, Devo, and George Thorogood, with a little Four Tops thrown in for balance.
Jeff had remarkable warmth and a selfless ability to listen to the troubles of others. To spend time with Cogan was to be completely at ease with someone in whom you could confide and not be judged. It was not uncommon to walk into his room to find Jeff in quiet conversation with people who were not his closest friends but who knew enough to know that Jeff was the right person to confide in. Cogan so willingly lightened the burdens of other people’s troubles but never wanted to share any of his troubles with others. He was the type of friend who would give anything to his friends but would expect and accept nothing in return.
Jeff carried a love for science like his father, Jerry ’56, whom Jeff admired and emulated. After earning a masters degree in geology in South Carolina, Jeff worked for an environmental resources company, spending the last decade in San Jose on sophisticated projects which included deep water wells in places like Africa. The CEO of the company eulogized Jeff “as without a doubt one of the keenest minds in the company.”
Jeff passed away suddenly at home last December 2006. Jeff always wanted those around him to be happy. We suppose that we could best honor his memory by living each of our days to the fullest, while striving to give of ourselves more like Jeff did. We miss you, Jeff. We feel proud and fortunate to be your friends.
—Pat Farrell ’82
—Pat Fitzgerald ’82
—Rob “Bake” Shepard ’82