Teresa Cohen received her PhD in Mathematics at Johns Hopkins University in 1918. She was a pioneer that paved the way for this generation of women mathematicians. She came to Penn State in 1920 where she taught Mathematics for over 60 years. She was the first female member of the university's mathematics department and the only woman for her first three-and-a half years.

Cohen was promoted to assistant professor in 1921, to associate professor in 1939, and to full professor in 1945 (one of only a few university full professors in the country at that time who were female.) Due to university regulations, she officially retired from Penn State at the end of 1961 but spent much of the next twenty-four years tutoring math students for free. As she once said, "I just like the pleasure of explaining and seeing someone understand." She continued devoting her time and energy to students until an accident at the age of 94 forced her to enter a nursing home in Baltimore. She died in 1992 at the age of 100.

In 1987 the department established the Teresa Cohen Tutorial Endowment Fund to foster undergraduate tutoring.