Brother Nathan M. Cochran, O.S.B., a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, died Wednesday, July 30, 2014. He was born June 24, 1957 in Marion, Ohio, a son of the late Blaine R. and Ruth E. (Roach) Cochran. A brother, Blaine A. Cochran of Edison, Ohio, survives him. He is survived by Phyllis Disbrow of Edison, who with her late husband, and her daughter, Sue Arter and her husband, David, of Westerville, Ohio, were dear friends.
He studied vocal music at Bowling Green State University from 1975-1977, and received a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from The Pontifical College Josephinum in 1980. He earned a master of divinity degree with honor from Saint Vincent Seminary in 1985, and did graduate studies in art history at the University of Pittsburgh from 1985 to 1986. In 1998 he earned a master of science with Pratt Honors in the theory, criticism and history of art architecture and design at the Pratt Institute.
Brother Nathan entered the novitiate at Saint Vincent Archabbey in 1982, made his simple profession of monastic vows July 10, 1983, and solemn profession of vows on July 11, 1986.
He served as curator for the Saint Vincent Archabbey Art Collections (1983- present), and in 1998 he was named as the director of The Saint Vincent Gallery and a lecturer in fine arts at Saint Vincent College. In 2007, he was also named the artistic director of the Saint Vincent Concert Series, and in 2008, he was appointed Chair of the Department of Fine Arts. At Saint Vincent College his past appointments include: assistant registrar (1985-1986), registrar (1986-1997), director of the King Ludwig Gallery (1986-1994) residence hall moderator (1994-1997), co-director of the Saint Vincent Gallery (1994-1997) study abroad advisor (1998 to 2007), and as moderator for the Review, the student newspaper, and the college yearbook (1998-2002). He was registrar of Saint Vincent Seminary (1989-1997), director of public relations at Saint Vincent Archabbey (1989-1997), and teaching assistant at the Pratt Institute (1997-1998).
On Founders’ Day in 2011, Brother Nathan was the first recipient of the Saint Vincent College Projektenmacher Award, which honors an individual who, in the spirit of Saint Vincent Founder Boniface Wimmer, made a valuable difference to the campus community through creativity, imagination and vision.
“Since his arrival in 1982, Brother Nathan was a patient and tireless lobbyist at the college to revive the great tradition of Sacred Christian art in western civilization,” said Brother Norman W. Hipps, president. “He reminded the monks and the faculty of the simple but profound message of the founder of Saint Vincent, Boniface Wimmer, who said: ‘I am firmly convinced that a monastic school, which does not strive to advance art as much as science and religion, will be deficient in its work’.”
“He played an important role in the revival of the tradition of Catholic religious art, architecture and music. While he loved the classical works of the golden age of western Christian art, he readily embraced the work of contemporary artists who created sacred art,” said Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B. “He was committed to the exhibition of the sacred works of arts through his biannual sacred art exhibition.”
Of particular note, he initiated a Nationwide Juried Catholic Art Exhibition. For the third national Catholic arts exhibit, Brother Nathan successfully enlisted famed British art historian Sister Wendy Beckett to serve as judge. She praised his endeavors, noting that “artists often come to understand their faith by the actual creation of artworks. We need these artworks, these attempts by artists known or unknown, to share with us their understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Would that there were hundreds of Brother Nathans in all countries!”
He curated and designed over 60 exhibitions at Saint Vincent, including the national juried Catholic arts exhibit, the fifth exhibit which will open on October 26; exhibits featuring artists such as Dai Morgan, William M. Hoffman, Jr., Barbara Kern-Bush, Lynn Johnson, Naijun Zhang and Hung Liu, Alexis Dillon; regional exhibitions and faculty and student exhibitions from Saint Vincent College, and many on the history of Saint Vincent Archabbey, College and Parish.
Brother Nathan was the author of Gifts of a King: The Treasured Art of Saint Vincent Archabbey (Latrobe, Pa.: 1986), and has served as editor of The Benedictine Monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey Monastery Newsletter, now Heart to Heart (1989-1997), of which he was founding design editor. He is co-author with Annemarie Spring of “German-American Art at a Pennsylvania Benedictine Archabbey: Saint Vincent, Latrobe,” a paper presented at the Annual Symposium of the Society for German-American Studies, Penn State University (1994) and has written and contributed to a number of exhibition catalogues at Saint Vincent and for the Cincinnati Art Museum’s An American Abroad: Frank Duveneck’s European Years (Cincinnati, Oh.: 1987). Brother Nathan was a contributor to Saint Vincent: A Benedictine Place (Latrobe, Pa.: 1995), and principal co-author of The Saint Vincent Basilica, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, One Hundred Years (Latrobe, Pa.: 2005), which received a national Catholic Press Association Award in 2006.
In 2004, he worked at Vatican City as the special secretary for the Beatification of Emperor Karl I of Austria. He coordinated and organized the various beatification celebrations in Rome; and wrote, edited and oversaw the translation, printing and distribution of various publications and press releases in eleven different languages. The principal ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square was attended by over 75,000 people, and was the last major public event celebrated by Pope John Paul II. He curated an exhibit in the Saint Vincent Gallery, “Karl I: The Peace Emperor, The Last Habsburg Emperor of Austria-Hungary” (2002), served as a contributor and on-camera expert for “Karl: The Last Habsburg Emperor,” a documentary produced by George Lucas to accompany the DVD release of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, 2007. Brother Nathan received the Signum Memoriae Civilian Medal of Honor from H.I.R.H. Otto von Habsburg, Archduke and Crown Prince of Austria and King of Hungary. It is the first time the medal has been bestowed since 1898, and was presented in honor of Archduke Otto’s 95th birthday.
His memberships have included the American Association of Museums, Carnegie Museums, College Art Association, Kaiser-Karl-Gebetsliga für den Völkerfreiden, (Emperor Karl League of Prayers for Peace Among the Nations), Constantian Society, Smithsonian Associates and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
At Saint Vincent, he was a member of many committees, including those on Educational Standards, Founders’ Day, renovation committee for Kennedy Hall; member of the Council of Seniors, Saint Vincent Archabbey (1993-1994); and member and co-chair of the Sesquicentennial Committee (1993-1996. His community service has included membership on the board of directors of the Greensburg Area Cultural Council (1996-2000); and board of directors, Westmoreland County Choral Society (1993-1998). He also was a religious services volunteer at the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg (1989-1996).
The body of Brother Nathan will be received at 3 p.m. Thursday, July 31, in the Elizabeth Roderick Center of Saint Vincent Seminary. Viewing will follow from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m., and will continue from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, August 1. A vigil service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Archabbey Basilica.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., at 10 a.m. Saturday, August 2, in the Archabbey Basilica. Interment will follow in the Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Benedictine Health and Welfare Fund, Saint Vincent Archabbey, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650.