Longtime director of UI Counseling Service retires

BY BEN MARKS | JULY 07, 2015 5:00 AM

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Sam Cochran, the longtime director of the University of Iowa Counseling Service, recently retired after working at the university for 33 years.

Cochran came to the UI from the University of Missouri in 1982 for an internship at the UI Counseling Service.

Eventually, he was hired as a staff member and spent the remainder of his professional life there working up the ladder.

Cochran, a UI professor emeritus and a licensed psychologist, said the hope for change thing first drew him to psychology.

“I think like a lot of people in my generation, it was the desire to be a positive influence in the world and make things better that motivated me to a large extent,” he said.

Julie Corkery, the Counseling Service assistant director for training, described Cochran as a calm source of support, a quality she said made him a trustworthy person whom people would often seek out for advice and counseling.

“Mental-health issues can be really complicated and sometimes confusing,” she said. “So having a steady, calm presence to set the tone to how to respond to mental-health issues in a generous and compassionate but also thoughtful way — it’s a quiet contribution.”

During his career, Cochran said, there were two major challenges — the aftermaths of 9/11 and the Virginia Tech shooting.

Cochran began as the director of the service two months before 9/11, and he had to coordinate the staff in response to the resulting emotions and anxieties.

However, the year following the Virginia Tech shooting was an even greater challenge, he said, especially at the UI because of the old fears still lingering from the Nov. 1, 1991, shooting that occurred on campus.

UI Crime-Prevention Specialist Alton Poole met Cochran in 2010 and has worked extensively with him ever since.

“We’re the people on the frontline who come into contact with people with mental illness,” Poole said. “So the topic of mental illness is an issue every police department is faced with.”

Through his time at the UI, Cochran had many accomplishments; he said one of the largest ones occurred in 2012, when he helped the service get a three-year, $270,000 suicide-prevention grant.

After the grant was awarded, Cochran said, he began to plan to retire, and he aimed to leave the month it expired, this month, mostly to enjoy what he called his “golden years.”

“I just know at my age the next decade or so for me is golden years to be able to have my health and energy to enjoy it with my family to doing things I want to do,” Cochran said.

His replacement will be UI Clinical Professor Barry Schreier, who began his career working under Cochran at the Counseling Service in 1993.

He will officially take his position July 13. After being at the UI, he began work at Purdue University in 1996. He then became the director of counseling at the University of Connecticut, and after a brief break to pursue a lifelong dream of opening a candy store, went to Princeton, where he worked as the coordinator of training and staff psychologist.

“[Schreier will] be a great resource on campus and a great director for us,” Cochran said. “He’s a really sharp guy and has a lot of good energy and ideas.”

With the legacy left behind by Cochran and the director before him, Jerry Stone, Schreier said he thinks he’s standing on the shoulders of giants.

For his part, Cochran has been using his newfound free time to explore his musical side, he said. He recently purchasing a used trumpet from the former UI Dean of Students David Grady and now plays in a band at the Senior Center, 28 S. Linn St.

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