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Retiring faculty members Robert Cohn, Philip and Muriel Berman Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religious Studies and chair of the Jewish Studies program; John Greco, professor of electrical and computer engineering; David Johnson, professor of English; and Julio Piazza, instructor of athletics, have been elected to emeritus status and will be recognized at the 179th Commencement on May 24.

Read more Commencement coverage

Professor Robert Cohn teaches a class in front of a chalkboard

Professor Robert Cohn

Cohn has been a member of the faculty for 27 years. He received a bachelor of arts degree in the history and literature of religions, with honors, from Northwestern University in 1969, a master’s degree in religious studies from Stanford University in 1971, and a doctorate in religious studies and humanities from Stanford in 1974.

Cohn began at Lafayette as assistant professor of religion and Philip and Muriel Berman Scholar in Jewish Studies. He was promoted to associate professor in 1990 and to full professor in 1994, when he was named Berman Professor.

Among the courses he has taught are Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Jewish Responses to the Holocaust, Poles Apart: The Jewish Experience in Poland, Religions in World Cultures, Jewish Humor, and the innovative Love and Sex in Biblical Texts. He is the recipient of the College’s Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Award, for superior teaching and scholarly contribution to his discipline, and Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Lecture Award, in recognition of excellence in teaching and scholarship.

Cohn’s research interests include the Hebrew Bible, the history and literature of Judaism, Holocaust studies, the Jewish experience in Poland, and sacred topography. He is author of 2 Kings, published in 2000 by The Liturgical Press in the Berit Olam series, and The Shape of Sacred Space: Four Biblical Studies (Scholars Press, 1981). He is the coauthor of Exploring the Hebrew Bible (Prentice-Hall, 1988) and coeditor of The Other in Jewish Thought and History: Constructions of Jewish Culture and Identity (New York University Press, 1994).

In 1993 Cohn taught in Roman Catholic seminaries in Poland as the first American Jewish biblical scholar in a pioneering program conducted by the American Jewish Committee.

Cohn served as head of the Department of Religion from 1996 to 2002. Among other service to the College, he was a member of the Provost Search Committee in 2005-06 and of the Presidential Search Committee that identified Alison Byerly as the College’s 17th president.

Professor John Greco with two students and a moving electronic device

Professor John Greco

Greco retired effective Dec. 31, 2013, and had been a member of the faculty for 37 years. He received a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from City College of New York in 1967 and master’s and doctoral degrees from City University of New York in 1968 and 1973, respectively.

Greco joined the Lafayette faculty as an assistant professor after working at GTE/Sylvania in Massachusetts and at the University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia. He was promoted to associate professor in 1983 and to full professor in 2003.

Greco’s teaching areas included analysis and design of digital circuits and systems. He taught a variety of courses, with emphasis on the computer engineering stem, and contributed significantly to the Introduction to Engineering course. On three occasions he led the College’s semester-long study programs at Vesalius College, Brussels. He is a recipient of the College’s Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award and B. Vincent Viscomi Engineering Prize for Excellence in Mentoring and Teaching.

His research interests include digital systems, computer-aided design, and microprocessor applications. The Westinghouse Foundation awarded Greco a grant of $50,000 to develop interactive instructional software packages for courses in digital circuit analysis. His research has been published by the American Society for Engineering Education and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and he has presented his research at the ASEE’s annual conference and exposition.

He has a long history of service on College-wide committees, mentorship of junior colleagues, and participation in student-recruitment activities.

Johnson has been a member of the faculty for 40 years. He received a bachelor of arts degree in English language and literature at the University of Maryland in 1967 and master’s and doctoral degrees in American literature at Penn State University in 1971 and 1975, respectively.

Johnson joined the Lafayette faculty as an instructor in English. He was promoted to associate professor in 1980 and to full professor in 1994.

Professor David Johnson speaks while seated

Professor David Johnson

Among Johnson’s teaching areas and research interests are American literature and culture. He has taught courses on the 19th century American novel, the modern American novel, the American Renaissance, and black and white perspectives on the South, among many others. He is the recipient of the College’s Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award; Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Lecture Award, in recognition of excellence in teaching and scholarship; and Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for distinguished teaching.

Johnson is the author of the first biography of Pulitzer Prize-winning American short-story writer and novelist Conrad Richter. Conrad Richter: A Writer’s Life was published by Penn State University Press in 2001 in the Penn State Series in the History of the Book. He has also published many articles and delivered many invited lectures. Johnson spent a year as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Yugoslavia in 1982-83.

Johnson served as head of the Department of English from 1983 to 1992 and from 2010 to 2013. He served as associate provost from 2001 to 2008, overseeing budgets in the academic division and working with faculty on program development, among other responsibilities. In 2008 he was awarded the College’s Cyrus S. Fleck Jr. ’52 Administrator of the Year Prize, which recognizes outstanding contributions by members of the administrative team to the campus community.

His service to the College also includes chairing the faculty committees on Curriculum and Educational Policy, Faculty Compensation, Athletics, Governance, Information Technology and Library, and Faculty Academic Policy. He has also served on the Board of Trustees’ committees on Educational Policy and Athletics and Student Affairs.

Julio Piazza

Julio Piazza

Piazza retired effective June 30, 2013, and had served as head coach of the College’s cross country and track and field teams for 27 years. He received a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 and a master of education degree from Penn in 1973.

Piazza came to the College after serving seven seasons as head coach of women’s cross country and assistant coach of track and field at Penn.

At Lafayette he coached two recipients of the Pepper Prize, awarded to the senior who most nearly represents the Lafayette ideal, and several recipients of the Maroon Club Scholar-Athlete Award and the Class of 1913 Trophy, presented annually to the senior male and female student-athletes who have attained the greatest distinction as both an athlete and a scholar. Nine of his assistant coaches went on to be collegiate head coaches.

He was voted Patriot League Coach of the Year in track and field or cross country eight times. He was honored in women’s outdoor track and field in 1991, 1996, and 2006; in men’s indoor track and field in 1997, 2002, and 2003; and in men’s outdoor track and field in 1997.

He was named coach of the year in women’s cross country in 1993, when his team won the Patriot League championship. He coached the women’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams to East Coast Conference titles in 1986-87 and 1987-88.

Under Piazza, Lafayette’s women’s indoor track and field team established school records in 18 of 20 events, the men’s team in 16 of 20 events. In outdoor track and field, the women’s team set records in 19 of 21 events, the men’s team in 15 of 21 events.

Piazza earned All-Ivy League honors eight times as a middle-distance runner at Penn, where he still holds two relay records. He and his wife, Cheryl, are the parents of Matthew ’12 and Katherine ’13.

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