We were sad to hear of the passing on 14 June 2021 of Judy Cochrane, of one of Epilepsy Connections’ founding Directors, and an inspiration, mentor, and friend to many people in the global epilepsy community for over 40 years.
Judy began her working life as a teacher, initially of English and history in high schools in England and Australia, then in the English Department of the University of Queensland, where she also completed her master’s degree. On returning to the UK she taught at the University of Glasgow and then worked with Quarriers, where she was responsible for overseeing the education of 500 children in residential care.
Judy’s long and successful career in epilepsy began in 1984 when she joined the Epilepsy Association of Scotland. From the beginning she believed that people with epilepsy should have access to the same opportunities as everyone else and every chance to live a full and meaningful life. This belief informed everything she did.
As Head of Support Services at the Epilepsy Association, she launched a number of initiatives to support people with epilepsy and their carers including a national phone helpline, fieldwork teams in 6 health board areas, and a national befriending service. She was involved in delivering epilepsy training and drove the development of comprehensive, accessible information resources for use in Scotland.
Judy knew the benefits of pooling skills and knowledge and was an enthusiastic contributor to various collaborative pieces of work undertaken by the Joint Epilepsy Council of the UK and Ireland. (JEC), an umbrella group of UK epilepsy charities. In pre-internet days, she brought together a number of JEC members to work together to produce high-quality information materials for everyone to use. These included, among others, ground-breaking resources about epilepsy and sexuality, men’s lived experience of epilepsy, and the UK’s first information leaflets about childhood epilepsy syndromes.
Judy developed a deep and abiding interest in epilepsy research and in 1991 she became a Trustee and then Vice Chair of the Epilepsy Research Foundation.
In 1993 she was elected Vice President of the International Bureau for Epilepsy. During her two terms in this role she chaired the Public Education Commission, leading the global development of epilepsy training and public awareness raising programmes, and nurturing the Youth Commission for young adults with epilepsy.
The impact of Judy’s work extended throughout Scotland, the UK and beyond, and her contribution was recognised with the prestigious Ambassador for Epilepsy Award in 1993.
Judy’s commitment to making life better for people with epilepsy continued after her retirement in March 2000 and later that year she helped set up Epilepsy Connections and joined our Board. During her 15 years as a Director, Judy gave generously of her time, knowledge, wisdom, and example. After she stepped down she retained her interest in the charity’s progress and people, and remained a much-loved and respected source of inspiration, advice, and encouragement. Epilepsy Connections would not have existed without Judy, and the charity’s ethos and values are largely attributable to her influence.
Judy showed us how to live a good life. Work was important to her, but family was at the heart of her life, and she loved spending time with friends. She loved her garden, and Scottish country dancing and was a passionate lifelong Manchester United supporter. She always saw the best in people, and the funny side of life, and time with her was always well spent.
Epilepsy Connections will remember Judy for her formidable intellect, her warmth, compassion, and love of life, and for her immense contribution to the charity.
A tribute from Epilepsy Research UK:
Judy made a really significant contribution to the development and running of the charity in her time as a founding trustee and vice chair of Epilepsy Research Foundation (now Epilepsy Research UK). She was passionate in her commitment to improving the lives of people with epilepsy through research, and to working collaboratively with others to achieve that. A great supporter of the staff team and a positive instigator of and contributor to new initiatives. Appreciative always of the efforts of the charity’s supporters to fundraise for research, and generous with her time in turning out to meet and thank people, such as meeting the Edinburgh Marathon runners.
She was a great encourager of collaboration across the epilepsy community – both to achieve more together, and to avoid wasteful duplication of resource and effort – and embraced the opportunity the internet offered for the sharing of high-quality information resources to support people with epilepsy.
A lovely lady – positive, efficient and effective, warm, saw the funny side in life and people – always good to be around.”
Epilepsy Research UK