In Memoriam: Olivia Cousins, 1948-2019

Olivia Cousins, a feminist scholar, African American historian, and long-time faculty member at the Borough of Manhattan Community College of the City University of New York, died recently in Brooklyn. She was 71 years old.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Cousins was a 1970 graduate of the University of Dayton, where she majored in psychology and was a charter member of the university’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She went on to earn a master’s degree in education and social policy at Harvard University and a master’s degree in African American studies and a Ph.D. in medical/community sociology from Boston University.

Dr. Cousins joined the faculty at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in 1987. In addition to teaching, she founded the college’s Women’s Resource Center and chaired the health and education department. She was also the founder of the John Mercer Langston Institute in Oberlin, Ohio.


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  1. Joan Dimmitt says:

    Dr. Cousins was a member of the I. Carpenter Chapter in Queens, NY, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and she was an Associate member of the Sasebo Japan DAR Chapter. We are very sad to hear of her passing and find comfort that she is is now at eternal rest.

  2. Leah Reeder says:

    I was acquainted with Dr. Cousins, Olivia, after she purchased local historic property in my hometown, Oberlin. She wonderful person, a delight and amazing scholar. I was quite saddened to hear of her passing. My, our condolences to the family, from the Reeder family, Oberlin, OH.

    Leah. H. Reeder

  3. Tricia Suttmann says:

    Dr. Cousins, Libby, was my closest friend while we were in college together at the University of Dayton and from thereafter. She was funny, brilliant, humble and above all loving. I grieve her passing and pray for her daughter and family. The world has lost one of its most bright lights.

  4. Sunita Viswanath says:

    Olivia was a mentor and friend for the past 25 years of my life. She was a deeply spiritual, knowing soul. It is hard to describe in words the deep spiritual connection I felt with her. She was also a dear sister, and gave me immense support during times of personal challenge. She had the ability to make you strong with one look or touch or word. I had wanted for years to visit the historic house she owned in Ohio — a house that was a part of the Underground Railroad — and hope there is an effort to realize her dreams for it.

  5. Peter Morales says:

    I had her during my undergraduate for women’s health. She was a great instructor and I learned a lot about women’s health and reproduction.

  6. marlene lasher says:

    I learned yesterday (9/16/21 of Libby’s passing. I knew her in Boston when she kindly opened her home to me to stay for a while as I dealt with some health issues. and needed a place to stay. This was in the 1970’s and Libby was in graduate school at B.U. in medical sociology. She was a kind, brilliant, caring woman with a keen wit and loving nature. Libby was one of a kind and I am a better person for having known her.

  7. April Sandmeyer says:

    There has been a hole in my heart, for almost 3 years, where “Libby” Olivia Cousins used to be as one of my most treasured and beloved friends. I constantly miss her and the compassionate and wise person she was. Thinking of her daughter and family. <3

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