Seena B. Kohl biography

Seena Bernstein Kohl was born in New York City on May 24, 1930. She married and moved to California where she earned a degree in recreational education from San Francisco State College in 1958. The family later came to St. Louis and Kohl completed her master’s degree (1964) and doctorate (1969) in anthropology from Washington University. During this period she joined a multi-year research study with John W. Bennett (who later became the Distinguished Anthropologist in Residence at Washington University) which examined the economic and social development of the northern plains of the U.S. and Saskatchewan, Canada.


Kohl came to Webster College (now known as Webster University) in 1967 and through the years taught classes on a variety of topics including oral history, applied anthropology, race, gender relations, kinship and family, and Native North Americans. In 1976, she founded Webster’s women’s studies program and in 1979, she became only the third faculty member to ever receive the Messing Award for curriculum development and innovation.


A Faculty Development Leave received in 1981 allowed Kohl to accept a one-year appointment as scholar-in-residence in Neshoba County, Mississippi as part of the Mississippi Committee for the Humanities. There she studied relations among Blacks, Whites, and Choctaws and encouraged them to learn their shared histories as part of a project called, “Diverse Origins, Common History.”


Kohl contributed to the study of St. Louis history through her research on the voluntary integration programs at cultural and educational institutions in the 1980s. Research team members conducted oral history interviews with students, teachers, and administrators who discussed their experiences with educational programs for Black and White students offered by institutions such as the St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Zoo, and others.


Seena Kohl retired from Webster University in 2009. She passed away in Helena, Montana on June 16, 2018.



Benchaabane, N. (2018, June 22). Longtime Webster University Professor Seena Kohl remembered as pioneering feminist, anthropologist.


Webster University. (2018, June 25). Remembering Seena Kohl, anthropologist and women's studies pioneer.