Philosophy and Religion
For 42 years, until his retirement in January 2015, Professor Emeritus Michael Kogan taught courses in philosophy and religion at Montclair State University with a passion and enthusiasm that made a lasting impression on his students.
“Dr. Kogan poured his passion for his subjects into his teaching,” says former student Jennifer Moss ’95, ’11 Cert. “As his student, it was impossible not to share that passion for the religions and philosophies of the world and impossible not to grow as a human being.”
The chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion for 24 years, Kogan created and taught courses in Jewish and Christian scripture studies, as well as courses in philosophy, theology, American religious history and Mormonism. And, his students recall, he did so with style.
“Dr. Kogan was a very effective teacher,” says Fred Brusco ’81. “He always taught with such humor, candor and exceptional speaking ability. He taught Bible and philosophy courses and made the material understandable.”
Erwin Nieves ’85 can also attest to his former professor’s charismatic classroom manner. “When I was a Puerto Rican kid at Montclair, walking the third floor of Partridge Hall contemplating quitting school, I heard Dr. Kogan teaching Descartes’ Meditations to a mesmerized class,” he recalls. “He saw me eavesdropping at the open door, and invited me in. He changed my life.”
Nieves went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force and is now an English professor at the University of Iowa. “Dr. Kogan taught me to never give up in life and never ever give up on a student.”
Kogan’s connection with his students went beyond the classroom. He initiated a series of evening lectures followed by informal get-togethers at his home designed to bring students and faculty together outside of the classroom environment. He also led field trips for his students.
“Dr. Kogan taught us more than just theory,” says Lisa Adele Sargese ’00, ’07 MA, now a professor at Montclair State. “He would take students on outings to the most beautiful churches and synagogues in Manhattan. He wanted us to understand that religious ritual and art could open up our sense of the sacred, that through religious experience we could have a brush with the infinite.”
A committed advocate for tolerance and dialogue among religions, Kogan is the author of the pioneering work, Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity and has contributed to scholarly journals and lectured widely about Jewish-Christian dialogue.
“Dr. Kogan taught us that being religiously tolerant didn’t mean we were any less faithful to our own religious path,” says Sargese. “He’d always say, ‘Just because I’m right, doesn’t mean you’re wrong’ so that we’d understand the paradox and promise of religious pluralism.”
Now retired and living in Charleston, South Carolina, Kogan is still in contact with many of his former students. “I took every course Dr. Kogan offered in philosophy and religion studies,” says Brusco. “He was the best teacher I had at Montclair State.”