A Life Well Lived: Erie Cocolas

Remembering a beloved friend to the School of Pharmacy

Story by Kelly Collins | Published October 3, 2022

Erie Cocolas, a beloved friend of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, passed away peacefully at the age of 92. Erie’s husband, George Cocolas, PhD, served on faculty for more than 40 years leading the Division of Medicinal Chemistry as well as the admissions committee. As a devoted professor and mentor, George taught and mentored more than 6,000 students—with Erie by his side every step of the way.

Erie was born in Flushing, New York, and worked as a bookkeeper and office manager in the high school where she graduated until she married George in 1953. George was born in New York and raised in New Haven, Connecticut. While in high school, George worked in a drug store while also lettering in soccer and baseball. He was invited to try out for the Brooklyn Dodgers and made the local farm team but opted to go to college instead of pursuing a baseball career.

After George graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, Erie and George married and made their way south to Chapel Hill. George earned his PhD in medicinal chemistry from UNC in 1956. They moved to Philadelphia for a short time for George to work as a research chemist at the National Drug Company before returning to Chapel Hill in 1958.

For Erie and George, the UNC School of Pharmacy was home. It wasn’t uncommon for their four children (and in later years grandchildren) to be seen running through the hallways of Beard Hall. Erie worked as a secretary for many years within the University of North Carolina system and finished her career with the North Carolina Pharmaceutical Association, retiring in 1994.

Both Erie and George were committed to helping pharmacy students make the most of their time at UNC. Erie was an active member and leader with the NC Pharmaceutical Women’s Auxiliary. George served as associate dean of the School for 17 years and was editor of the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education for 22 years. An AJPE dedication to George shared: “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.’”

After retiring, Erie’s passion turned to crafting. She made beautiful angel pins and ornaments. You could find her sharing that joy at local craft shows and festivals. Erie and George were devoted parishioners of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. George served as president and treasurer of the parish council and as choir director for more than 50 years. Erie, along with several other women of St Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, compiled the award winning “The Grecian Plate” cookbook.

The enduring legacy of George and Erie Cocolas is remembered through the George Cocolas Distinguished Professorship and the George and Erie Cocolas Student Scholarship Fund. George also authored A History of the UNC School of Pharmacy, as a sequel to the history written by Alice Nobel focusing on the key milestones between the 1950s-2003.