In Memoriam: Jewell Plummer Cobb, 1924-2017

Jewell Plummer Cobb, the biologist who was the former president of California State University, Fullerton, died on New Year’s Day. She was 92 years old.

The granddaughter of a former slave, Dr. Cobb grew up in Chicago. Her parents were a doctor and a teacher. She attended segregated public schools and then enrolled at the University of Michigan, where she was housed in a racially segregated dormitory. Cobb transferred to Talladega College in Alabama, where she majored in biology. She went on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in cell physiology at New York University.

After conducting postdoctoral research at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole in Massachusetts, the Cancer Research Center at Harlem Hospital, Columbia University, and the National Cancer Institute and teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, Dr. Cobb joined the faculty at Connecticut College as a professor of zoology. She also served as dean of arts and sciences. In 1976, Dr. Cobb was appointed professor of biological sciences and dean of Douglass College at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

In 1981, Professor Cobb was appointed president of California State University, Fullerton. She was the first African American women to lead a major university west of the Mississippi River. She served as president of CalState Fullerton until 1990. Afterwards, Dr. Cobb was a trustee professor at California State University, Los Angeles.

A video about Dr. Cobb’s career prepared by the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, may be viewed here.

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