Originally PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2016
I am sad to report the death of Lydia Goodwin Steinway Cochrane. Ms. Cochrane translated many scholarly works from French and Italian, greatly enriching the number of books by European authors available in the English language. Ms. Cochrane was a great friend of ours. She supported travel grants for students of European history and a lecture series for distinguished European historians, both in memory of her husband, Eric Cochrane, professor of the Italian Renaissance in the department. Below is an excerpt of her obituary, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
—Emilio Kourí, Professor and Chair
Lydia Cochrane, Steinway Piano Heir Active in Chicago Culture, Dies at 87
By Joan Giangrasse Kates, Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2016
A descendant of the founder of Steinway & Sons, Lydia Cochrane was "subjected" to piano lessons as a girl but never embraced the instrument, her family said. Throughout her life, Cochrane chose her own path. At age twelve, the New York City native asked to be sent to a boarding school to get a taste of the bigger world.
"She was a woman of grace, elegance, generosity, and intelligence," said Eugene Fama, professor of finance and Nobel laureate in economics at the University of Chicago, who is her son John's father-in-law. "There are never enough words to describe this wonderful woman."
Born Lydia Goodwin Steinway, Cochrane, whose father ran the piano company, was the youngest of six children, raised in Manhattan, with barefoot summers spent at her family's lake house near Plymouth, Mass. While her siblings attended conventional schools, she received a more "progressive education" at Putney School, a boarding school in Vermont, her family said. In 1950 she earned a bachelor's degree in American studies from Smith College before landing a job in the Book Reviews section of the New York Herald Tribune.
She met her future husband, Eric Cochrane, during a trip to Italy, and following a three-month romance was married in New York in 1953. The couple moved to California, where he taught history for a year at Stanford University before joining the Army and serving in Europe. While he was in the service she learned French. The couple lived in Rome for a time before returning to the United States and, in 1957, settled in Hyde Park, where her husband began teaching Italian history at the University of Chicago.
Cochrane taught French at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and earned a master's degree in French language and literature from the University of Chicago. Later she landed a job as a translator with the University of Chicago Press, where she worked until retiring a few years ago.
"I kept out of trouble doing translations of historical studies on a bewildering variety of topics: prostitution in the Middle Ages, the history of writing, and political prophecies and portents in the 1520s," she wrote in a short memoir.
"She translated hundreds and books and articles with the same precision and passion she brought to all aspect of her life," said her son, John, a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
Active in social and civic groups, such as the Fortnightly of Chicago and Tuesday's Ladies, Cochrane was a regular at city cultural and artistic events. She stayed fit by taking early morning swims with friends and over the years cultivated "highly individualized" relationships with each of her grandchildren, all of whom grew up knowing their grandmother by her first name.
Former TV news reporter Rich Samuels [PhD'76, History] came to know Cochrane more than fifty years ago, when her husband was his dissertation adviser.
"Eric taught me how to write, and Lydia, taught me how to deal with the challenges that the passing years bring," Samuels said. "I especially remember a dinner [. . .] attended by three generations of the Cochrane family. Lydia, well into her eighties, prepared the entire meal herself, including the home-baked bread."
Eric Cochrane died in 1985. Other survivors include another son, Nicholas, and six grandchildren. A memorial service is being planned for early April in Chicago.