UNC Professor Emeritus George Cocolas, Ph.D.,
Professor Emeritus George Cocolas, Ph.D., was a member of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy faculty for more than 40 years.

Professor Emeritus George Cocolas, Ph.D., a member of the School’s faculty for more than 40 years, died Monday, Dec. 19, after a brief illness. His funeral will be held Friday, Dec. 23, at 11 a.m. at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Durham.

Cocolas joined the faculty of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in 1958 and retired in 1999.

During his long tenure at the School, Cocolas was chair of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry from 1975 to 1982 and served as associate dean for 17 years. He also chaired the School’s admissions committee.

He may be best known in the profession for serving as editor of the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education for 22 years from 1980 to 2002. He was also active in academic pharmacy representing medicinal chemistry on the executive committee of the AACP Conference of Teachers and as a member of the AACP Resolutions Committee, program committee member of the AACP Section of Teachers, the Committee to Evaluate the AACP Executive Director, the AACP Research and Graduate Affairs Committee and the AACP PCAT Advisory Committee. In 2003 he was elected honorary president of American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

As a devoted professor and mentor, Cocolas taught and mentored more than 6,000 students. His enduring legacy is remembered at the School through the George Cocolas Distinguished Professorship of Medicinal Chemistry Endowment Trust Fund and the George and Erie Cocolas Student Scholarship Fund. He is author the author of A History of the UNC School of Pharmacy, a second history that picks up where first, published in 1961, left off.

Cocolas served as the associate dean of the School for 17 years. As a teacher and associate dean, he worked with students and student leaders to make the most of their. He was chair of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry from 1975 to 1982. As a member of the graduate faculty, he was major adviser for 11 students, published 39 papers in peer-reviewed journals and was awarded three patents. He contributed on National Science Foundation review panels, was secretary and then chairman of the Medicinal Chemistry Section of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences and chairman of the American Chemical Society Medicinal Chemistry Symposium in 1986. Trained as a synthetic organic chemist, his area of research was primarily in neurochemistry.

In a 2003 dedication to Cocolas’ tenure as editor, AJPE shared the following: “One of his former students, now in public health pharmacy, describes him as ‘almost more than a gentleman. Whatever the situation was, it would work out because we knew that in a rough storm, George Cocolas was a calm place.’”

Born in New York in 1929, Cocolas was raised in New Haven, Connecticut. He began his pharmacy career by working in a drug store while still in high school. He lettered in soccer and baseball and was invited to try out for the Brooklyn Dodgers after graduating. He made the local farm team but went on to college instead of pursuing baseball.

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George Cocolas talks with Fred Eshelman at the School’s naming ceremony in 2008.

Cocolas graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy in 1952 and earned his Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, completing the program in 1956. After graduating, he was employed for a short time as a research chemist by the National Drug Company in Philadelphia before returning to Chapel Hill in 1958.

Cocolas was a devoted parishioner of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. He served as president and treasurer of the parish council and as choir director for more than 50 years. He was presented the St. Michael’s award for parish service by the bishop of Atlanta.

The funeral will be 11:00 a.m. Friday from St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. Additional details may be found here.

Memorial gifts can be made to the UNC Eshelman School of  Pharmacy Foundation (Dr. Cocolas in memo line), 194 Finley Golf Course Rd. Suite 106, Chapel Hill 27517, or to St. Barbara’s Church Building Fund, 8306 Hwy 751, Durham 27713.

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