Retired Washburn University faculty leader among 5 who died in p - KCTV5

Retired Washburn University faculty leader among 5 who died in pileup on I-70

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The victims included Sheldon H. Cohen, a retired chemistry professor at Washburn University in Topeka, and his wife. (Washburn University) The victims included Sheldon H. Cohen, a retired chemistry professor at Washburn University in Topeka, and his wife. (Washburn University)
BONNER SPRINGS, KS (KCTV/AP) -

Authorities say five people have died in a fiery six-vehicle wreck that temporarily closed a stretch of Interstate 70 on the western edge of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority says the crash happened Tuesday afternoon when a tractor-trailer crested a slight hill and failed to slow for traffic that was stalled because of construction. The westbound rig rammed three slowing passenger vehicles, including a car, before crashing into a stopped tractor-trailer. The car was forced under the stopped tractor-trailer, which then rear-ended a pickup truck. Both rigs and the car caught on fire. Another vehicle landed in a ditch.

The victims included Sheldon H. Cohen, a retired chemistry professor at Washburn University in Topeka, and his wife. One of the victims wasn't discovered until authorities were clearing the wreckage.

The Cohens and a third man, Ricardo Mireles, were from Topeka. The fourth person killed is an Urbana, IL woman named Teresa Butler.

The fifth person who died was Karen Lynn Kennedy, 63, of New Palestine, IN. She was a passenger in Butler’s car.

Washburn University President Jerry Farley released this statement about the Cohens:

With great sadness, I announce the passing of Dr. Sheldon H. Cohen, professor emeritus. and his wife Virginia.  Both were killed in a car accident yesterday.

Dr. Cohen was a leader among the faculty and a guiding force in the Department of Chemistry.  In addition to his long career as a teacher, he served Washburn in a number of roles including Provost and Academic Vice President from 1982-1984 and Executive Director of Planning from 1991-1999. 

Dr. Cohen joined the Washburn University Faculty in 1960 and rose to a position of professor.  He was well-respected and popular and he even continued to teach as an adjunct after his retirement in 1999. During his career, he authored more than 60 scientific papers and served in a number of leadership positions with Phi Lambda Upsilan, the national chemical society.

In addition to his work at the university, Dr. Cohen was sought after as an advisor and board member for a number of community organizations in Topeka including Weed and Seed, the College Hill Neighborhood Association and the Kansas Wildflower Association.  He was recognized in 2010 with the Col. John Ritchie Award which is given to individuals who have distinguished themselves both in service to the university and to the community.

The Cohens both continued their long interest in higher education and established a scholarship fund to benefit students in Washburn’s chemistry and biology departments.

From my earliest days at Washburn Dr. Cohen was a valued advisor.  He was always thoughtful and considerate.  He was an exceptional teacher.  His students have often told me of the positive impact he had on them.

Through his long service and commitment to students, he left a lasting legacy at Washburn.  And, since his retirement, he and Virginia have continued to be engaged in Washburn activities.

I offer our deepest sympathy to the Cohen family and to the entire Washburn community on the passing of these outstanding individuals.

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