Ted Cohn and his wife Shirley on a walk with the SFU Retirees Association in 2017.


In Memoriam: Theodore (Ted) H. Cohn

February 03, 2021

By Professor Andy Hira

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Theodore (Ted) H. Cohn, professor emeritus of SFU’s political science department, on January 27th, 2021.

Ted will be remembered as a tireless colleague, known for his persistence, good humour, and collegiality. In his work, he was painstakingly thorough and patient when it came to fully understanding all sides of issues before writing about them. 

Ted earned his BA in political science from the University of Michigan and his MA in political science from Wayne State University. He returned to the University of Michigan, earning his PhD in 1972. Before coming to SFU, Cohn held an assistant professorship at the University of Western Ontario for seven years and was also a visiting scholar at El Colegio de México. During his tenure at SFU, he was Chair of the department from 1982 to 1987.

While at SFU and after he “retired”, Ted authored and co-edited a number of books, smaller monographs, and articles on international political economy, international trade, global food and agricultural issues, and Canada-U.S.-Mexico relations. He became known worldwide as a leading scholar in global political economy. His focus on the formal and informal ways that multilateral trade rules are made, changed, and challenged reflected an encyclopedic knowledge of the field. He wrote one of the leading textbooks on this topic, Global Political Economy: Theory and Practice, released just last year in its eighth edition. Students all over the world still use the textbook to this day.

After “retirement”, Ted continued to teach in the SFU Now program and became active in the SFU Retirees Association (SFURA). He co-founded a walking and hiking group within the association in 2009, leading many walks with his wife Shirley.

*Watch Professor Cohn present "The Global Financial Crisis and Trade Protectionism: The Implications for Canada" for the SFU Seniors Forum in 2009.

Ted is remembered fondly by his SFU Department of Political Science colleagues, SFURA friends, and others:

“Ted was one of the three people (Bob, David, and Ted) who started the SFURA walking/hiking group in 2009. The fourth person who does not get mentioned is Shirley who has been an active member of the group from the beginning. Ted and Shirley led a lot of walks including hot sunny days and cold rainy days. When I was new to hiking, didn't know what I was doing, they shared their snacks and lunch with me--making sure I was not going to starve. By 2019, when Ted could not join us on hikes any longer, Shirley kept leading walks until she had to stay at home. Anyone who knew Ted will not forget his gentle and disarming smile, his curious nature and high integrity. We will always cherish his fond memories.” (Parveen Bawa of SFURA)

“Ted was such a ‘good person’ in addition to being a scholar and friend. As you probably know, he and I were on different wave lengths politically, but we somehow managed to be friends and ‘hear’ each other.” (Marjorie Griffin Cohen, SFU Professor Emeritus)

“I'm very saddened to hear that Ted has left us. Knowing about his health, I had been dreading the announcement for a while but that does not make it any easier to accept. I want to express my sympathies to his family. I've known Ted since I joined the Department of Political Science and we had become friends. Our conversation would veer from academic subjects to the progress of our children as they were becoming young adults. As everyone who knew him, I'm sure, I greatly appreciated his sense of humour, and his gentle way of saying ‘Oh, well...’ to sum up his impression about unpleasant things. He was extraordinarily devoted to his work and accomplished a great deal both as a scholar and an administrator (when he chaired the department), but he never took himself too seriously, as you could tell from his ironic smile. He was always supportive and ready to help. He will be remembered for having been an outstanding citizen of the department as well as an expert in international political economy, but also in countless ways as a kind and caring person whose words were always well chosen. Farewell, Ted!” (SFU Professor Laurent Dobuzinskis)

"Ted was a lovely man and always so considerate of others. When I first came to the department he was very welcoming and a good friend throughout my time there." (Lynda Erickson, SFU Professor Emeritus)

“Ted was such a good soul, and I had a great fondness for him. I was impressed with how he could be so kind and thoughtful and also be very sure to stand his ground on what he thought was right.” (SFU Professor Andrew Heard)

“My sincere condolences to the Cohn family. Ted was a kind and nice colleague, mentoring me when I started at SFU back in the mid-1990s. We shared research interests in international political economy and spent a lot of time together talking about his textbook project and many other subjects. I have many fond memories. I will not forget him.” (SFU Professor Yoshi Kawasaki)

“Ted was not only an excellent teacher and scholar, he also was a person of exemplary character who treated others with kindness and respect. For me, he and Shirley were good, caring friends. Ted's passing is a great loss for his family and all his friends. I will sorely miss him.” (Peggy Meyer, SFU Professor Emeritus)

“Ted was a very nice gentleman, a good person, and scholar, and I liked his subtle sense of humour. I know that he was very active in the walking group for SFU retirees. I almost registered for one of his downtown classes designed for seniors, but at the time we had travel plans and I would have missed some of them. Now I regret it. With warm regards and deep sadness for Ted's family.” (Colette Sauro, former SFU Department of Political Science assistant/student advisor)

"I was deeply saddened to read that Professor Ted Cohn had passed away. I remember him from the early days of his joining the Department of Political Science. He was always close to the faculty and students. He was always willing to meet and talk, and that was a great help to his colleagues and students. He will be very much missed." (A.H. Somjee, SFU Professor Emeritus)

"Ted and I were good friends and classmates through elementary and high school in Detroit and then when we both went away to college. After that, we went our separate ways and did not remain in close touch. It is interesting that although neither of us focused on political science as undergraduates, we both earned doctorates in the field and ended up teaching at Canadian universities. 

My memories of Ted were that he was quite serious, often wrestling with challenging problems. We often had long talks together. For family reasons, he set out to pursue a career in medicine. When he began to doubt that that was the right path for him, he began to confide in me, knowing that I was going through a similar experience. Perhaps I was helpful as he struggled with a life-shaping decision.

I know that he had a lot to contribute and am confident that he did so through his teaching and research.  He was a person that any academic would value as a colleague. I hope that his memory will live on with his students and colleagues. Please accept my sincerest condolences." (Harold Waller, Retired McGill University Professor)