Susan Frances Cole
Born August 4, 1948
Died May 1, 2021
Wife to David Eisen, principal at Abacus Architects & Planners in Boston. Mother to Ben Eisen, a reporter at The Wall Street Journal in New York. Mother-in-law to Emily Cohn, deputy editor in chief at Insider in New York. Sister to Stuart Cole, a retired ophthalmologist in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
She grew up mainly in Macon, Georgia, the daughter of a school-teacher mother and a bacteriologist father who later opened a local toy store. Her childhood in the Deep South when schools were still segregated sparked her passion for a more just education system.
She moved north to finish college, then became a special education teacher. After getting a law degree, she worked for a nonprofit now known as Massachusetts Advocates for Children, representing kids who had been expelled from the Boston Public Schools. A common theme emerged through her work in the ’90s: Many of the kids experienced trauma outside of school, such as homelessness or domestic abuse, and that impacted their ability to focus in school. Thus began her life’s work trying to make the public school system more attuned to these issues.
In 2004, she started the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative in partnership with Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Advocates for Children. She and her team trained students to handle legal casework related to school expulsions, worked with schools to adopt new practices, pushed for legislative change and published three books on trauma’s impact on education.
Her expertise took her all over the world, speaking to and working with educators about how to make schools sensitive to trauma. Her pioneering work in Massachusetts has gained more national attention recently as legislators and school administrators around the country focus on childhood trauma.
Donations in Susan’s memory may be made to Steven Oliveira, Dean for Development & Alumni Relations, Harvard Law School, 1563 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138. On the memo line please note, “Susan Cole/Trauma & Learning Policy Initiative.” Donations can also be made online at hls.harvard.edu/give Under “Select a Fund” choose “Other” and please type in, “In Memory of Susan Cole/Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative.”
Live stream link to view the graveside for Susan: