News & Events

Dr. Richard Cohen to give reading, book signing at UMPI

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is pleased to host one of its Emeritus faculty members, Dr. Richard Shain Cohen, for a reading and book signing on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Normal Hall Faculty Lounge. Light refreshments will be served and the community is invited to attend.

Dr. Cohen retired from the University of Maine at Presque Isle after serving as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of English. His latest book is Healing After Dark, which focuses on the work his father, Dr. Morris A. Cohen, did to establish and run the Boston Evening Clinic, a never before conceived facility for the treatment of the indigent and low-wage earners.

Dr. Cohen said the book began as his father’s memoir. When he was working on his dissertation, his father asked him if he would edit the story, and he said he would. However, fate had other plans, and Dr. Cohen wasn’t able to work on the project until nearly 50 years later.

“The book had been sitting in my house since the 1960’s,” Cohen said. “My father passed away in 1974, but it wasn’t until about the time I finished my Longfellow book last year that everything came into place. It was time to get information about my dad out to the public. What he did was just outstanding, and I would say that about any doctor that did what he did.”

Dr. Cohen edited the story and included excerpts to complete the book. What Dr. Morris Cohen did, as set down in the book, was to persevere and achieve success with the clinic “against overwhelming odds: the objections of the Massachusetts Medical Society, major hospitals, banks, and businesses.” He persisted, the book describes, because he believed there were many who required the kind of care he believed in. His efforts to recognize the needs of people unable to pay for medical care or seek it during the day eventually were honored at the highest levels, including recognition by three Presidents of the United States.

Dr. Morris Cohen was an immigrant from Romania. According to his son, he sold newspapers to help out his family, and when he was in medical school, he worked in the freight yard in north Boston, during summers helped in a factory producing World War I armaments, and sold secondhand candy at Faneuil Hall. After medical school he interned at New York Hospital [now part of Cornell Medical Center] and eventually became chief resident. He started the evening clinic in 1927.

“There was no such thing at the time – there had been an evening clinic in the 18th century, but it wasn’t for the indigent and the low-wage worker as this was,” Dr. Cohen said. “Because of my father’s experience and coming here and believing in this country the way he did, and having worked in New York with some of the poorest people, he said, ‘We’ve got to have an evening clinic because people who are poor cannot afford to lose a day’s pay. They have the right to medical care.'”

At first, patients paid 50 cents per visit, and the first year, Dr. Morris Cohen and the group of doctors who were volunteering their time at the clinic had 3,000 patients. By 1965, more than a million people had been seen at the evening clinic, and the idea had begun to spread around the country. The clinic continued for a short time after Dr. Morris Cohen’s death, and it now is under the auspices of Massachusetts General Hospital.

“You have a man who was determined and would not quit and who believed in himself and what he was doing,” Dr. Cohen said of his father. “He was way ahead of his time.”

The younger Dr. Cohen did not follow his father into medicine – he worked in isotope research at Harvard Medical School before he went into academics – but he has devoted his life and career to serving people in the field of higher education. Dr. Cohen served at the University of Maine at Presque Isle from 1974 to 1990 in the positions of Assistant Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of English. During his time at UMPI, he was able to oversee the creation of the first Women’s Center in Aroostook County with a Title I grant. He also started the Honors Program under a Title III grant.

Dr. Cohen is originally from Boston. He holds B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees. He served as editor of the journal Husson Review and was principal participant in a National Endowment for the Arts Grant for Images of Aroostook that was exhibited throughout the State of Maine (some of them are now housed at the Maine Historical Society).

His own publications, in addition to this book include The Forgotten Longfellow: Man in the Shadows (2010); Only God Can Make a Tree, poetry from himself and his brother, Alfred Robert Cohen; and the novels Monday: End of the Week, Be Still, My Soul, and Petal on a Black Bough. He also wrote chapters for Aroostook: Land of Promise, academic reviews, other articles, and – with the help of a Shell Grant – a monograph on Samuel Richardson that can be found in major library holdings. Aside from the present book, in progress is a fourth novel. Dr. Cohen now resides in Cape Elizabeth with his wife Arla.

All are invited to attend Dr. Cohen’s reading and book signing. For more information, please contact Sara Martin at 768-9452.