~ In Memoriam ~

Randall J. Cohrs, PhD, MS

Research Professor of Neurology

February 11, 1952 - July 30, 2021

Randall J. Cohrs, PhD


The Department of Neurology is saddened to announce the passing of Professor Randall J. Cohrs, PhD, MS. Randy joined the Department of Neurology as an Instructor in 1989. For more than 25 years, his laboratory has studied the molecular virology of varicella zoster virus (VZV). Dr. Cohrs was an integral part of Professor Donald Gilden’s team in demonstrating that VZV was latent in human ganglia. He was the first to identify the VZV transcripts associated with latent infection, and was a key contributor in the recent identification of a novel VZV latency associated transcript. He further led the field by characterizing epigenetic alterations on the VZV genome. His contribution to research is evident in his 160 published papers, reviews, and book chapters.

Over the decades, Dr. Cohrs mentored numerous post-doctorates, and took special delight in mentoring scores of undergraduates, inviting them to explore the STEM world. He served as a veritable conduit of scientific knowledge, fostering and encouraging collaborations around the globe. He was the founder of the Colorado Alphaherpesvirus Latency Society (CALS) Conference, which featured his legendary “fireside chats,” founder and president of the Rocky Mountain Virology Association, grooming it to become a premier meeting of regional virologists, and a consultant for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Dr. Cohrs was president-elect of Rocky Mountain Branch of American Society for Microbiology, where he provided countless opportunities for undergraduates to present at meetings and actively participated as judge, mentor, photographer, award certificate designer and story teller. He was, as he stated in his own words, "Branch Archivist," but also much more.

Randy was unfailingly generous, kind, always had a wonderful story, and never knew a stranger. His loss to our group is immeasurable, and his contributions to translational research long-lasting.

Randall J. Cohrs Awards

Dr. Cohrs was passionate about getting students excited about science, and encouraged their participation in the Rocky Mountain Virology Club (RMVA), Colorado Alphaherpesvirus Latency Society, and Rocky Mountain ASM branch meetings. The RMVA will meet in-person (October 1-3, 2021) and will have a memorial. Permanent student and post-doctorate speaking and poster awards have been established in Randy's honor. The RMVA is accepting donations to support these awards now and into the future, in Randy’s name.

Donations can be made through the Paypal link at the RMVA website, or by check, payable to the Rocky Mountain Virology Association, mailed to the address below or delivered in person at the meeting:

Joel Rovnak, Ph.D.

Rocky Mountain Virology Association, Inc.
1619 Campus Delivery
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado, 80523


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The enduring legacy of Randall Cohrs: A meeting of the minds in the Rocky Mountains. Charles Grose, MD, Joel Rovnak, PhD, and Ravi Mahalingam, PhD

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Dr. Randall Cohrs' obituary and memorial service.

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International Herpesvirus Workshop 2020 (IHW) Tribute Ravi Mahalingam, PhD

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Randy was always interested in training future scientists, and no person was too young or inexperienced. This included my 20 year old neighbor with no lab experience at all. It was a great experience for my sons’ friend, and led him to study neuroscience in college. He remembers Randy very fondly and speaks of this time in his life frequently.  –John Corboy, MD

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Randy was one of my greatest mentors. Patient with me, a clinician trying to learn basic science and be rigorous about it. But, above all, I came to appreciate so much his profound humanistic self. It may not happen that the world will give us a second Randy. A poem that was created after Randy’s conversation with a listener-poet (Elle Klassen) two weeks before his passing follows. –Marius Birlea, MD

—— Words of Silver ——

Dark clouds abound here,
But the attention is on
Their silver linings

Language, charged,
Slyly commands feeling;
Escapes detection

For example:
Every “they” has a name;
Every “should,” a will

Words, I live by
For life is best lived
With others

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Recent Issues in Varicella‐Zoster Virus Latency
Kennedy, P.G.E.; Cohrs, R.J. Viruses 2021, 13, 2018. https://doi.org/10.3390/v13102018

Acknowledgments: At the very final stage of this review, just prior to submission, our wonderful and esteemed colleague, friend and co‐author Randall J Cohrs passed away suddenly. This was a tragic loss to both his co‐authors, his family and the worldwide virological community. We therefore dedicate this article to the memory of Randy Cohrs and also as a tribute to the warm and generous nature of his personality as well as his outstanding contributions to alpha herpes virus latency research over many years.Peter G. E. Kennedy, MD, PhD and Trine H. Morgensen, MD, PhD, DMSc

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