In Passionate Support of UC San Diego

Becky Cohen

Becky Cohen ’70, MFA ’72

Becky Cohen ’70, MFA ’72, creates images with such sensitivity and clarity that they seem impossible—her lens seeks what is essential and the resulting photographs verge on abstraction while maintaining the resonance of a place or a particular person. From her photographs of André Le Nôtre’s masterful landscapes to her documentary work on 20th century artists, this ability to zero in on what is before her is the hallmark of Becky’s artistry. Her experience at UC San Diego strengthened this skill, giving her work across mediums an unmatched depth and intimacy.

UC San Diego in the 1960s and 1970s had a total population of less than 6,000 students, but the environment was the foundation of the campus today: intellectually engaged, fearlessly innovative, and academically robust. Becky spent her time here building long-lasting relationships with faculty across campus including Walter and Judith Munk, Jonas Salk, and artist Harold Cohen, her future husband. The richness and intensity of the community heightened her ability to combine inquiry and careful listening—crucial to problem solving in art and life.

And it was here, surrounded by intellectual titans, that she learned to be an artist. Not a brooding artist, but one committed to offering the world her best self. As a young woman finding her way during the Civil Rights Movement and the resurgence of feminism, Becky was free to develop confidence as a photographer and a person. At UC San Diego, she developed her lifelong dedication to creating her work to have positive social effect.

Becky’s identity and ethos extend to her giving. She listens deeply to the people she photographs, spending hours observing before photographing; as a philanthropist, she looks for opportunities that allow others to enjoy the same searching communion. She believes that open dialogue is key to solving our world’s biggest problems: global conflict and the climate crisis. And she hopes her bequest to UC San Diego can help.

At a recent event celebrating Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Becky was impressed by researchers and scientists who were doing more than documenting climate change—they were finding ways of making the world listen. She admired their efforts to influence environmental policies in new ways including engaging on social media and developing public outreach strategies.

Becky’s work, including the award-winning documentary She is Fierce—the first in a planned series on 20th century artists, profiling Joyce Cutler-Shaw, her friend and fellow graduate of UC San Diego’s MFA program—requires careful observation. For Becky, philanthropy is another way of paying attention.

“I want to channel my passions into kind, productive, and genuine listening that recognizes that each of us comes from somewhere deeper than our individual selves. My giving can do that,” she says.

Your support can make a lasting impact at UC San Diego and beyond. To learn more about how your gift can serve as a reflection of your values and passions, like Becky Cohen’s did, please contact the Office of Gift Planning at (858) 534-2249 or