Meet the First Lady Kathryn Cochran Cole

Kathy Cole

MUSC first lady, Kathy Cole, is a devoted advocate for MUSC who builds lasting relationships within the MUSC family as well as with partners and communities across the state and nation.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Kathy grew up in a military family and traveled the world during her father’s Air Force career. She attended Texas Christian University (TCU) and graduated in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN). She returned to her roots to pursue her passion for pediatrics as a pediatric oncology nurse at Egleston Children’s Hospital at Emory University in Atlanta. This work was followed by service in a pediatrician’s office in Bethesda, Maryland, before relocating to Charleston with her husband Dave (MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS) and focusing on her growing family. Today, although not an active nurse, she lives out her heart's calling through volunteer work at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion, working with MUSC students and by living a life of service within the community

Kathy and Dave reside in Mount Pleasant with their two dogs: black lab, Lilly, and Cairn terriera, Ella and Sassy. They prioritize spending time with family: Paige (husband, Chase); Andy (wife, Alex, and daughter, Emily); and Bryan (fiancé, Cydney).

Additional Information about Kathy Cole

At the heart of Kathy’s volunteerism at MUSC is her passion for students and children’s health. She makes it a priority to interact with and support students within all six MUSC colleges, host student groups at her home and participate in various student celebrations, ceremonies and events. Kathy was instrumental in creating "Wired Wednesdays," which arranges for therapy dogs to interact with MUSC’s students in the library during stressful exam times.

Kathy is also an active member of the MUSC Women’s Club, which supports MUSC through volunteerism and by awarding scholarships to selected students from the university’s six colleges.

Kathy enjoys participating in various community events that intersect with MUSC’s mission to build healthy communities. She served as the 2019 and 2020 Super Peloton captain for the MUSC One team with LOWVELO, a bike ride fundraiser that contributes 100% of every rider-raised dollar to cancer research at the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. In addition, Kathy has been a dedicated supporter of the Charleston Medical District Greenway, which provides healing green space for patients and the community. The CMD Greenway is a partnership between MUSC, Roper St. Francis Hospital, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and the City of Charleston.

And when accounting for her service outside of MUSC, Kathy’s reached role model status. From serving numerous years as a troop leader for the Girl Scouts and volunteering in the offices of elementary, middle and high schools, to serving her faith-based community as a Sunday school teacher, deacon and elder, Kathy is known for her servant-leader heart and giving back to others.

Fun Facts about Kathy

Q: What is something that not many people know about you? Dr. Cole and Mrs. Kathy Cole

Kathy: When I was in ROTC in college, I flew in an F-105 Thunderchief while they were doing practice bombing missions on ranges in Oklahoma.

Q: What do you feel is your most important role at MUSC?

Kathy: I'm focused on deepening and building relationships with employees and students because a strong MUSC family is crucial to delivering excellence across the MUSC mission. I think that my most important role is making people feel like they belong – that they are in the right place, at the right time and with the right people, especially when it’s really difficult. Being in this role also gives me a chance to call more attention to and raise philanthropic support for the health and wellness of children and our students, which I believe are critical issues that MUSC is uniquely positioned to address, given the expertise and size of the hearts we have on our teams.

Q: What are your hobbies?

Kathy: I love to garden, cross stich and read. I get all my books from my daughter, Paige, and my favorites are usually historical fiction. She’s an avid reader, so she finds the best books. I loved “All the Light We Cannot See,” “The Nightingale” and “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” There were also several series’ that I loved, such as “Outlander,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter.” 

Q: What do you see next for MUSC? The Cole Family

Kathy: I would love for MUSC to continue to excel in taking its culture of innovation, compassion and respect to the next level, making it the regional go-to institution where patients and families receive the best possible care. I think people across the state are finally understanding what a gem we have in this organization, and I’d love to see the MUSC family get the national recognition it deserves, too.

Q: What is your favorite quote or motto?

Kathy: My kids will tell you that my favorite motto is “First impressions are everything!” I firmly believe this. One can never take away a first impression.

In terms of quotes, I have two favorites. The first, by Coco Chanel, is "A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous." And the second comes from a poem by Erin Hansen:
There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask, "What if I fall?"
Oh, but my darling,
What if you fly?
Q: Which of your passions aligns well with MUSC?

Kathy: I just love making people feel special and important. To be part of such a big organization, it is important that everyone feels like they belong. It makes us feel like a family, and I am a family person. I also love being around our students. They are the ones that will lead us in the future, and I love talking to them and feeling the excitement and passion that is in each of them. I also am a nurse at heart and just adore children. The new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion, and the care that it gives to each patient there, just warms my heart. I love being a small part of that when I volunteer.

Q: What is your best childhood memory?

Kathy: I have two, and they both involve us living in Europe when I was in grade school. First was visiting London and watching, from our hotel window, the changing of the guard parade that was taking place just down the street. Second was when we lived in a German farming town just outside of the Air Force base. There was a hill directly across the street from us and, in the winter, we would sled from the street almost to the start of the forest, probably a half-mile. It was awesome. Those entire three years stand out in my memory as some of the best of times.

Q: What’s the president really like?

Kathy: Not only is he the smartest person I know, but he is also the most compassionate, sincere, loyal, humble, loving, ethical and funniest person I have ever met. His heart for medicine and caring for others is unbelievable. The love and loyalty that he has for MUSC is amazing, and on top of that, he’s an awesome husband and father. He brings teamwork to everything he does, whether it’s at MUSC or at home.

Q: We hear you have a nickname… “The Commander.” Where did that come from?

Kathy: Oh my gosh, that’s so funny! Well, I suppose it really became a thing when I was the Wando Lacrosse “team mom” for 5 years. When you need to fundraise to the tune of $40K annually, keep a gaggle of teenage boys fed and cared for so they can play to their best ability, and build a sustainable program, you do have to take command. I adore each and every one of those boys (now men!), so while it was certainly a lot of work, organization and coordination, I will always look back on that time as helping to build something really special.

Q: What advice do you always find yourself giving?

Kathy: Trust that God will show you the path and open the doors that are right for you and close doors that are wrong for you.

Q: What philanthropic project are you working on for MUSC that has special meaning to you?

Kathy: In memory of my father, Col. Henry J. “Jack” Cochran, my family and I created the Jack Cochran Medical Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support for four years to a student in the College of Medicine. This is such a passion of mine, and it would mean so much to know that others care about supporting our very deserving students as the fund grows. This is such a passion of mine, and as the fund grows, it means so much to know that others care about supporting our very deserving students.

Emily Cole