Thomas R. Cole

Last updated

Thomas R. Cole (born 1949) is a writer, historian, filmmaker, and gerontologist. He is currently the McGovern Chair in Medical Humanities and Director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. [1] He is also a spiritual director at Congregation Beth Israel's Center for Healing, Hope, and the Human Spirit.



Cole was born into a Jewish family in New Haven, Connecticut. In September 1953. His father, Burton Michel, died in an apparent car accident. His father's death prompted a lifelong personal and academic inquiry into issues of spirituality, aging, and the question of what it means to grow old. [2]

Cole married Letha Birkholtz in 1972 and had two children, Jacob and Emma. He was divorced and married Thelma Jean Goodrich in 2007. They live in Houston.


Cole studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Yale University. He graduated in 1971 under the mentorship of philosopher of religion Merold Westphal and political philosopher William McBride. He earned a Masters in American intellectual history under the direction of Donald Meyer at Wesleyan University (1975) and a Ph.D in history under the mentorship of Christopher Lasch at the University of Rochester (1980). His dissertation examined the history of aging in middle-class America in mid-19th and early 20th centuries.

Academic career

In 1982 Cole became a professor at UTMB Galveston, where he assisted his mentor, Ronald Carson, in developing the nation’s first Ph.D. Program in medical humanities. [3]

His 1993 book, The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America]examined the tradition of European thought and art about aging, traced its evolution in America, and emphasized the absence of social and cultural meaning in later life. [4]

In 1997 Cole wrote No Color is My Kind, the story of Eldrewey Stearns and the integration of Houston. [5]

Cole and his student at the time, Kate de Medeiros, taught Life Story Writing Workshops to groups of elders in Galveston from 1998-2003. [6] The PBS film Life Stories was made about the workshops.

In 2004 Cole became the founding director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics. [7] With Ronald Carson and Nathan Carlin, he co-authored Medical Humanities: An Introduction.

Published works


Documentary films

Edited collections

What Does It Mean to Grow Old? Reflections from the Humanities. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1986.

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?: An Annotated Bibliography of Aging and the Humanities. Washington, D.C.: Gerontological Society of America, 1988.

Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. Springer Publishing Co., 1992.

Voices and Visions of Aging: a Critical Gerontology. Springer Publishing Co., 1993.

The Oxford Book of Aging. Oxford University Press, 1994.

Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. Springer Publishing Co., 1999.

Practicing the Medical Humanities: Forms of Engagement. University Publishing Group, 2003.

Faculty Health in Academic Medicine: Physicians, Scientists, and the Pressures of Success. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, 2009.

Guide to Humanistic Studies in Aging. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

Notes and references

  1. "Thomas R. Cole, Ph.D. - John P. McGovern, M.D., Center for Humanities and Ethics|". John P. McGovern, M.D., Center for Humanities and Ethics|. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  2. Norman, Michael (1996-01-14). "Living Too Long". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  3. "Graduate Program". Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  4. Astrow, Alan (1993-12-30). "Book Review". New England Journal of Medicine. 329 (27): 2043–2044. doi:10.1056/NEJM199312303292721. ISSN   0028-4793.
  5. "Lost in the Cause". Houston Press. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  6. Rimer, Sara (2000-02-09). "Turning to Autobiography for Emotional Growth in Old Age". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  7. "McGovern Medical School | McGovern Center celebrates a decadeMcGovern Medical School - McGovern Medical School". Retrieved 2016-01-03.

Related Research Articles

John Sealy Hospital Hospital in Texas, United States

John Sealy Hospital is a hospital that is a part of the University of Texas Medical Branch complex in Galveston, Texas, United States.

Galveston County, Texas U.S. county in Texas

Galveston County is a county in the U.S. state of Texas, located along the Gulf Coast adjacent to Galveston Bay. As of the 2010 U.S. Decennial Census, the population was 291,309. The county was founded in 1838. The county seat is the City of Galveston, founded the following year of 1839, located on Galveston Island. The most populous municipality in the county is League City, a suburb of Houston at the northern end of the county, which surpassed Galveston in population during the early 2000s.

Texas Medical Center Business district and neighborhood of Houston in Harris County, Texas, United States

The Texas Medical Center (TMC) is a 2.1-square-mile (5.4 km2) medical district and neighborhood in south-central Houston, Texas, immediately south of the Museum District and west of Texas State Highway 288. Over 60 medical institutions, largely concentrated in a triangular area between Brays Bayou, Rice University, and Hermann Park, are members of the Texas Medical Center Corporation—a non-profit umbrella organization—which constitutes the largest medical complex in the world. The TMC has an extremely high density of clinical facilities for patient care, basic science, and translational research.

University of Texas Medical Branch

The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) is a public academic health science center in Galveston, Texas. It is part of the University of Texas System. UTMB includes the oldest medical school in Texas, and has about 11,000 employees. In February 2019, it received an endowment of $560 million.

William J. Winslade, Ph.D., J.D. is the James Wade Rockwell Professor of Philosophy of Medicine at the Institute for Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law and Associate Director for Graduate Programs, Health Law & Policy Institute at the University of Houston Law Center. He is a fellow of the Hastings Center, an independent bioethics research institution.

Jimmy Kessler

James Lee Kessler, the founder of the Texas Jewish Historical Society, is the first native Texan to serve as rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Galveston, Texas.

Michael Uebel, a pioneer in the application of psychological insights to the historical intersections of social, personal, and imaginative phenomena, is a psychotherapist and researcher in Austin, Texas. He has taught literature and critical theory at the University of Virginia, at Georgetown University, where he taught in the Communication, Culture, and Technology Program and the English Department, and at the University of Kentucky, where he held a faculty position in the Department of English, and was affiliated with the Committee on Social Theory and Women’s Studies. As of 2012, Uebel has been appointed Lecturer in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author and/or editor of three major studies and the author of over 40 journal essays and encyclopedia articles. Uebel lectures nationally and internationally on issues concerning social history, mental health, and the challenges of humanism. In 2009, he co-founded the Interdependence Project-Austin, a branch of the New York city-based nonprofit organization (IDP) dedicated to fostering the intersection of the arts, activism, and contemplative traditions. Uebel serves as Director of Contemplative Studies.

John P. McGovern

John P. McGovern was an American allergist, investor and philanthropist. He established the McGovern Allergy Clinic in Houston, Texas, created the Texas Allergy Research Foundation and the John P. McGovern Foundation, and co-founded the American Osler Society.

As one of the oldest and more historically significant cities in Texas, Galveston has had a long history of advancements and offerings in education, including: the first parochial school (1847), the first medical college (1891), and the first school for nurses (1890).

Galveston National Laboratory High security National Biocontainment Laboratory

The Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) in Galveston, Texas, United States, is a high security National Biocontainment Laboratory housing several Biosafety level 4 research laboratories. The lab is run by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) for exotic disease diagnosis and research. The GNL is one of the 15 biosecurity level 4 facilities in the United States and the largest one in the world located on an academic campus.

Shriners Hospitals for Children-Texas Hospital in Texas, United States

The Shriners Hospital for Children - Texas is a 30-bed non-profit pediatric burn hospital, research, and teaching center located on the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, US. Part of a 22-hospital system, it is one of the three Shriner's Hospitals that specialize exclusively in burn care and consists of an intensive care unit with 15 acute beds and a reconstruction and plastic surgery unit with 15 reconstruction beds along with three operating rooms and beds for orthopedic and spine care. The hospital is verified as a burn center by the American Burn Association and accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. In 2012, the hospital joined the Texas Medical Center as its 50th member institution.

George Albert McElroy was a prominent pioneering African-American journalist. Among many "firsts" achieved by McElroy, he became the first African American to earn a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.

Sean Roden

Sean Kevin Roden is a NASA flight surgeon was the lead of medical operations for the International Space Station (ISS) from 2004 to 2007.

Ernst William Bertner was an American physician and healthcare administrator. He was the first president of the Texas Medical Center and served as acting director of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Benjy Frances Brooks was an American pediatric surgeon affiliated with several hospitals in Houston. She was the first woman in the surgery department at Harvard Medical School and the first woman to become a pediatric surgeon in the state of Texas. She founded the pediatric surgery division at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Brooks actively conducted research throughout her career in addition to working as a pediatric surgeon.

Howard A. Brody is an American bioethicist and family physician. He was a professor of family medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch prior to his retirement from there in 2016. For much of his time at the University of Texas Medical Branch, he was the director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities there. Brody has performed research in the field of placebo studies.

William Keiller

William Keiller was a Scottish born anatomist who trained in anatomy at the Edinburgh Extramural School of Medicine and was appointed as the first Professor of Anatomy at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, a post he held for 40 years. He served as Dean of the UTMB Medical School and as President of the Texas Medical Association. Many of his anatomical drawings and paintings are preserved and displayed at the Blocker History of Medicine collection at UTMB Moody Medical Library.

Holly Adrienne Hogrobrooks was an American civil rights activist and journalist in Houston, Texas. She was a leader of the Progressive Youth Association, active in student protests against racial segregation in 1960 and 1961.

Vasanthi Jayaraman Professor of molecular biology

Vasanthi Jayaraman is a professor of molecular biology in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center.