obit Phil Cochran WEB

Cochran, Philip A.


Philip A. Cochran, Ph. D., 59, of Winona, died Wednesday, March 4, 2015, at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.

Phil Cochran is survived by a family as proud of him as he was of them — his wife, Michelle; his children, Joe, Andy, Jenny, Jesse, and Gus; his grandchildren, El and Isla; and his siblings, Cathy, Chris, Randy, and Cindy.

Phil was a proud and loving husband, father, brother, grandfather, and father-in-law. He encouraged family members to pursue their passions, provided strength during times of trial, and showed how to work hard and enjoy life. He always placed family first.

Winona was a special place to Phil. He attended St. Mary’s as an undergraduate and returned in 2000 to teach in the biology department, serving as department chair since 2004. He took special joy in leading his family, friends, and students into the field to show them the wonders of the natural world. He spent the past two summers tracking bull snakes in Weaver, often accompanied by Michelle. Volunteering as a rattlesnake responder allowed him to serve the community by rescuing timber rattlesnakes, a protected species, by removing them from people’s yards and relocating them. An avid basketball player and fan, Phil was a regular at Saint Mary’s “noon ball” games, thrilling everyone with a lefty hook shot as effective as it was unorthodox. He was a member of the 2000 Saint Mary’s Intramural Championship team.

Before coming to St. Mary’s, Phil taught at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., from 1984 to 2000. As many current and former students attest, Phil was an inspirational teacher. His creative lessons included an “edible final” for which students were given various fish dishes and were then asked to write everything they knew about each fish. He took his students into the bluffs to learn about plants, to Weaver to catch and observe reptiles, and to the creek to sample fish. He involved students in his research as much as possible, knowing that the experience and publications prepared them to be researchers, scientists, teachers, punsters, learners, and citizens of the world.

Phil was an accomplished researcher, focusing on the ecology, geographic distribution, and conservation of animals and plants. His hundreds of scientific articles, notes, and book chapters deal with the natural history of such animals as lampreys, timber rattlesnakes, paddlefish, wood turtles, mudpuppies, and parasitic catfish. He also co-authored a book about the fishes of Wisconsin with John Lyons. He conducted most of his research in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and traveled to Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, Panama, Peru, and Brazil. He presented regularly at conferences across the U.S. and Canada, most recently at the Biology of the Pit Vipers Symposium in Oklahoma City and the American Fisheries Society conference in Quebec City.

Phil is missed by the many people whose lives he touched. But he lives on in them, too.
A memorial service for Phil will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, in the St. Mary’s gym. Visitation will take place 11 a.m. until the time of the service. All are invited to join Phil’s family for a reception following the service.

Please share a memory of Phil, sign his online guestbook, and view his video tribute when it becomes available at


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