Huguette Schachnovitch Cohen, 93, passed away on August 12, 2020 at Carriage Crossing in Champaign, Illinois. Huguette was born in France on July 31, 1927, the daughter of Aizik Schachnovitch and Menia Schour. Her father, an electrical engineer, was transferred to Casablanca, Morocco in 1932, working there for the French government. Huguette and her family were there during all of World War II, returning to France in 1948. Casablanca was never occupied by the German army, but a part of the American invasion of North Africa occurred there in 1942 and was witnessed by Huguette and her family. She met many Americans at that time and, struck by the huge contingent of U.S. forces moving through Casablanca, concluded that America must be a very powerful nation.
After returning to France, Huguette attended the University of Paris-Sorbonne, studying English language and civilization, receiving her License in Literature and Language. She took a position with the United States Information Service in Paris, working in the library, where she met Harold Lancour, the former director of the library school at the University of Illinois, who encouraged her to apply there for study in the School of Library Science.
Huguette came to the University of Illinois in 1955, was awarded a Master’s Degree in Library Science, and worked as a cataloguer in the University of Illinois Library for several years. It was at that time she met Jozef Cohen, a professor in the Department of Psychology, and they were married in July of 1958. At Jozef’s urging, Huguette pursued and attained a PhD at the University of Illinois in French Literature. Her PhD thesis, entitled “La Figure Dialogique dans ‘Jaques le fataliste’” was published in French in the Oxford Press series “Studies on Voltaire”. When Huguette married, she lost her French citizenship but Giscard d’Estaing, then President of France, was so impressed with her thesis that he restored her French citizenship.
Huguette continued her love of literature throughout her life, and was probably most proud of her complete translation into French of the Mother Goose nursery rhymes – a very difficult feat in which English rhyming verses were translated into French, with the French verses also rhyming in that language.
Huguette was preceded in death by her husband, Jozef, but before their passing they established the Jozef and Huguette Cohen Innovation Fund at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to which their entire estate is dedicated. Memorial gifts in Huguette’s name may be made to this Fund through the University of Illinois Foundation. Condolences may be offered at www.renner-wikoffchapel.com
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