The third Vusumzi Primary School classroom is dedicated to Louise Beth Cohen, a beloved director, actor, teacher, mentor, and friend. Raised in Revere, Massachusetts, Louise grew up in a self-described "colorful" family. After graduating from Revere High School, whose school song she sang with an infectious Boston accent, Louise attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and then the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
In 1981, she made her way to Purnell School, a girls' boarding school in Pottersville, New Jersey. Throughout her 14-year tenure, she touched lives with humor, compassion, and patience. Louise's talents surfaced in theatre productions, acting classes, and Immersion Period, during which students mastered all elements of a musical in the span of two short weeks. Louise pulled off this miracle by embodying the tough love approach to teaching: high expectations wrapped in warmth.
Sadly, in 1998, Louise was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a relentless brain cancer. Her doctors gave her a limited window for survival, but Louise cast that prognosis to the side and faced her battle from all fronts, right up until her passing in October of 1999.
Her death did not diminish her memory, however, as colleagues and students united to name a classroom in her honor. The gesture underscores Louise's profound impact, as evidenced by the outpouring of love. "Louise was a huge influence in my life. She helped me so much in times of need... Ms. Cohen was one of my all-time favorite teachers. I adored her, and she was a rock for me during my Purnell years... Louise always was and always will be an inspiration. She was a dear, sweet legend... We think of her often, and she still makes us laugh out loud when we remember her... Louise changed my life. She was an extraordinary woman, teacher, advisor and mentor..."
Hers to you, Lou. Clearly, you are still cherished and missed all these years later.