In Memoriam: International Scholar & Local Philanthropist Ben Kohl


It was announced by Washington College last Friday that the acclaimed scholar and local philanthropist Ben Kohl passed away early Thursday morning.  A private service will be held in Middletown, DE with plans for a memorial service at a later date.

A native of Delaware, Benjamin G. Kohl was educated at Bowdoin College (A.B. with Honors in History, 1960), the University of Delaware (M.A. 1962), and Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D. History, 1968).  From 1966 until his retirement in 1998, he taught medieval and early modern history at Vassar College, where he served as chairman of the department of history for seven years.  He authored or edited seven books and CD’s on Italian Renaissance history, published over seventy articles and reviews, and contributed to such reference works as the Dizionario Biografico Degli Italiani, the Oxford Companion to Italian Literature, the Encyclopedia of Censorship, and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Benjamin Gibbs Kohl (October 26, 1938 - June 10, 2010)

Over the years, he held fellowships from the Fulbright Commission (Italy), the American Academy in Rome, the Delmas Foundation, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.  In 1981 he was honored with election as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (London), and in 2006 he was one of eighteen scholars in the United States awarded a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship in the Humanities.  At the time of his death, his active research project was a book on the governance of late medieval Venice.

In retirement, Kohl served as the president of the Hedgelawn Foundation, Inc. of Lynch, Maryland (a small charitable trust dedicated to the promotion of the humanities, historical preservation, and the visual and performing arts) and as the secretary of the Town of Betterton Planning Commission.  In addition, he served on the  boards of the American Friends of the Warburg Institute, the Oxford Journal, Renaissance Studies, and as President of the Historical Society of Kent County, Maryland.

He is survived by his wife, Judith Kohl, a Professor of English Emeritus from Dutchess Community College, SUNY, their son, Benjamin and his wife Kimberly Libercci Kohl.

Letters to Editor

  1. Alisha D says:

    Washington College has lost a great champion with the passing of Dr. Kohl. Despite being a member of the Board, Dr. Kohl knew students by name and took an active interest in their lives. Anytime my name was in an Elm article or featured on the College website, Ben would read it and want to talk about what I had done or said the next time we saw each other. In taking such an interest in the goings-on of my life he always made me feel special and important and for that I am eternally grateful. I hope that one day I am able to follow in his example and make younger students feel the same as I did in celebrating their accomplishments.

    From what intermittent interactions I had with Ben in my four years at WAC it was clear that he lived a rich and vibrant life up until the end. My condolences to his family and friends.

    Alisha DiGiandomenico ’10

  2. John Seidel says:

    Ben Kohl truly was both a gentleman and a scholar. He gave an enormous amount to his students, his colleagues, and all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. Ben will be greatly missed, but fondly remembered.

  3. The Directors, Staff and Membership of the Historical Society of Kent County are deeply saddened by the passing of Benjamin G. Kohl, former President of our Board, and always a friend.

    We are very moved that he and his family have chosen the Historical Society, along with Washington College’s Miller Library, to be the recipient of memorials in his name. As a leader in our organization, he understood so clearly how serious the business of history keeping is, and how important it is to not only preserve history, but to make it accessible for generations (forever, really), and that the keeping of a community’s history is, in its way, as important as the keeping of a nation’s.

    Ben was a scholar, a writer, a gentleman, and a delight. We are determined that his memory in this community to which he and his wife Judy have given so much, shall never fade.

    Diane Daniels, Historical Society of Kent County

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