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Thomas R. Cole  

Thomas R. Cole is Professor and Graduate Program Director at the Institute for Medical Humanities,University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston

He is also a Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Religious Studies at the University of Houston. Cole graduated from Yale University (B.A. Philosophy, 1971), Wesleyan University (M.A., History, 1975) and the University of Rochester, (Ph.D., History, 1981).

Dr. Cole has published many articles and several books on the history of aging and humanistic gerontology. His book The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America (Cambridge University Press, 1992) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is senior editor of What Does It Mean to Grow Old? (Duke, 1986), the Handbook of Humanities and Aging (Springer, 1992, 2nd edition 1999) and Voices and Visions: Toward a Critical Gerontology (Springer, 1993). The New Yorker noted his co-edited Oxford Book of Aging as one of the most memorable books of 1995.

Cole’s interest in the life stories of older people has taken him into biography and film-making. In 1984, Cole encountered a hospitalized psychiatric patient who claimed he was the “original Texas integration leader.” While psychiatrists focused on the diagnosis, Cole embarked on a decade-long journey to recover the patient’s story. The result was a book -- No Color Is My Kind: the Life of Eldrewey Stearns and the Integration of Houston and an accompanying documentary film, “The Strange Demise of Jim Crow,” broadcast nationally on over 60 PBS stations and internationally by the U.S. State Department. This documentary received numerous awards and was nominated for a regional Emmy and a National Humanities Medal.

Currently, Cole is completing a film, Still Life: The Humanity of Anatomy. Based on interviews with medical students and with participants in willed body programs, this film explores the special yet unstated relationship between donors and students. He is also Senior Editorial Consultant for Life Stories, a PBS documentary about the program of writing workshops for elders that he directs.

Since 1991, Dr. Cole has edited (along with co-editors Harry R. Moody and Carter Catlett Williams) Aging and the Human Spirit, a biannual newsletter. He is currently launching a broader project entitled Aging and the Human Spirit, which includes: 1) programs of creativity and lifelong learning for elders in various settings; 2) training workshops for people who want to conduct such programs; 3) a book series, co-edited with Dr. Ruth Ray; 4) a film series; and 5) professional education in humanistic gerontology and geriatrics.

Cole is a frequent contributor to professional and public discussions about our aging society. He serves as an advisor to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the United Nations NGO Committee on Ageing, and various editorial and foundation boards.

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