Thomas R. Cole

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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]

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston UTHealth is the most comprehensive academic health center in The UT System and the U.S. Gulf Coast region. UTHealth educates more healthcare professionals than any health-related institution in the State of Texas

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) was created in 1972 by The University of Texas System Board of Regents. UTHealth is located in Houston, Texas, in the Texas Medical Center, which is considered the largest medical center in the world. It is composed of six schools: John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, UTHealth School of Dentistry, Cizik School of Nursing, UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics and UTHealth School of Public Health.



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]

New Haven, Connecticut City in Connecticut, United States

New Haven is a coastal city in the U.S. state of Connecticut. It is located on New Haven Harbor on the northern shore of Long Island Sound in New Haven County, Connecticut, and is part of the New York metropolitan area. With a population of 129,779 as determined by the 2010 United States Census, it is the second-largest city in Connecticut after Bridgeport. New Haven is the principal municipality of Greater New Haven, which had a total population of 862,477 in 2010.

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.

Houston City in Texas, United States

Houston is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Texas and the fourth most populous city in the United States, with a census-estimated population of 2.312 million in 2017. It is the most populous city in the Southern United States and on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Located in Southeast Texas near Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, it is the seat of Harris County and the principal city of the Greater Houston metropolitan area, which is the fifth most populous metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the United States and the second most populous in Texas after the Dallas-Fort Worth MSA. With a total area of 627 square miles (1,620 km2), Houston is the eighth most expansive city in the United States. It is the largest city in the United States by total area, whose government is similarly not consolidated with that of a county or borough. Though primarily in Harris County, small portions of the city extend into Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.


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.

Yale University private research university in New Haven, Connecticut, United States

Yale University is an American private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701, it is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine Colonial Colleges chartered before the American Revolution.

Wesleyan University private liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut

Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut. Founded in 1831, Wesleyan is a baccalaureate college that emphasizes undergraduate instruction in the arts and sciences, grants research master's degrees in many academic disciplines, and grants PhD degrees in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, molecular biology and biochemistry, music, and physics. Along with Amherst College and Williams College, Wesleyan is a member of the Little Three colleges. In the 2016 Forbes ranking of American colleges, which combines national research universities, liberal arts colleges and military academies in a single survey, Wesleyan University is ranked 9th overall.

Christopher Lasch American historian

Christopher "Kit" Lasch (1932–1994) was an American historian, moralist, and social critic who was a history professor at the University of Rochester. Lasch sought to use history as a tool to awaken American society to the pervasiveness with which major institutions, public and private, were eroding the competence and independence of families and communities. He strove to create a historically informed social criticism that could teach Americans how to deal with rampant consumerism, proletarianization, and what he famously labeled the "culture of narcissism".

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]

University of Texas Medical Branch hospital

The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) is a component of the University of Texas System located in Galveston, Texas, United States, about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Downtown Houston. It is an academic health center with 11,000 employees and a medical school that is the oldest in Texas. In February 2015 it had an endowment of $513 million.

Medical humanities is an interdisciplinary field of medicine which includes the humanities, social science and the arts and their application to medical education and practice. The core strengths of the medical humanities are the imaginative nonconformist qualities and practices.

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.

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