The Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University is greatly saddened by the sudden death of our friend and colleague, Professor Ben Kohl. Ben died last week in Philadelphia of an apparent heart attack. Many of you know Ben through his contributions to Latin American studies, international development, and urban studies across the disciplines of Planning, Geography, Anthropology, Politics, and Sociology. Ben was a phenomenal teacher, colleague, mentor, and friend. He cared deeply about students and was extremely supportive of junior faculty. Ben’s commitment to social justice permeated all aspects of his life and it is difficult to imagine the department without him.
Ben, along with his wife Linda Farthing, was one of the foremost experts on Bolivia and provided critical, rigorous, and creative work on many important debates over neoliberal governance, conflicts over natural resources, drug policy and social movements. He received his undergraduate degree in Anthropology from San Francisco State University in 1986, his MA in Engineering and Policy, Technology and Human Affairs from Washington University in 1992, and his PhD in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University in 1999. Ben and Linda moved to Bolivia in the 1980s and for the past 30 years have been living between La Paz and the US. Ben joined the department at Temple in 2001. Ben and Linda publishedFrom the Mines to the Streets: A Bolivian Activist’s Life (2011, University of Texas, Austin) and Impasse in Bolivia: Neoliberal Hegemony and Popular Resistance (2006, Zed Books, London). They have a forthcoming book about Evo Morales’ government and the process of change in Bolivia that will be published by the University of Texas Press. Information about Ben’s scholarship and publications can be seen on his website.
Ben’s contributions to the Department and Temple University are innumerable. He was most passionate about students—he served as Undergraduate Chair for four years and was recently serving as Graduate Chair. Ben made substantial and critical contributions to the curriculum. He was to his core an educator with the goal of challenging and empowering students. He was also generous with his time and support of his colleagues. Ben was unfailingly encouraging of junior scholars and saw one of his key roles to create an environment where they could flourish. Ben’s kindness, generosity, integrity, wit, infectious laugh and willingness to speak truth to power will be greatly missed.
Ben is survived by Linda, their children Minka and Maya with whom he was very close and extremely proud, and his extended family. In lieu of flowers, family ask that you consider making a donation to 20/20 Scholarships in memory of Professor Kohl. The 20/20 Scholarships provide assistance to Temple University students from the North Philadelphia neighborhoods surrounding Temple University. To do, so visit giving. temple.edu. Locate the “Designation” area on the screen. Type “20/20 Scholarships” in the “Other” box. You may indicate that your gift is in memory of Professor Kohl by selecting “MY GIFT IS IN HONOR/MEMORY OF” option below the text box and completing the form. On the next page, enter your credit card information.
Checks made payable to Temple University with “Ben Kohl” in the memo line may be mailed to the CLA Development Office, 1234 Anderson Hall, 1114 West Berks Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122-6090.
There will be a memorial service and celebration of Ben’s life on Saturday, August 24 at 4 p.m. at The Spring Gardens located at North Street, between 18th and 19th streets, Philadelphia, PA 19130. For directions, please see http://www.thespringgardens.org/directions/. An obituary also appeared on philly.com.