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In Memoriam: Alvin Cohen

Randy Earle
Chair, USITT Fellows

Alvin Cohen died March 29, 2008 after being in the hospital for many months unable to communicate. His wife, Harriet Cohen, who lives in Tamarac, Florida survives him along with daughter Paula (Golden) and son David.

Mr. Cohen was USITT’s Treasurer during the mid-1970s, a time when the Institute’s finances were on less than firm ground. His conscientious stewardship of our funds brought us out of near-fiscal disaster, and his term ended with a surplus of $55,000, quite an accomplishment in those times. John Bracewell said Mr. Cohen was “quite austere in managing USITT business ... always fair ...of enormous help to me as a young Commissioner.”

Many Fellows such as Zee Weisfeld and Jay Glerum commented on their relationships with his company, Alcone, Inc., a major theatrical supplier to the profession for over 50 years. Mr. Cohen was a strong supporter of theatre for young people as noted by Randy Davidson in reflecting on his help to “literally thousands of schools this nation over.”

Joel Rubin also reminded us of Al’s ongoing passion for children’s theatre through his support of the Children’s Theatre Conference and other similar organizations. A fitting tribute to him is the Children’s Theatre Foundation Alvin H. Cohen Memorial Scholarship. Joy Emery shared a story from Irene Corey when she was seeking something to bind the satin pieces on costumes for Book of Job, and Mr. Cohen supplied “ply-on film,” a relatively new product to solve the problem. Ms. Emery noted, “Al enjoyed working with designers … to find various products developed for a myriad of varying professions that could be useful to our theatrical applications”.

A May 1995 letter from Mr. Cohen to past President Richard Arnold mentions Mr. Cohen’s proposal for the Edward F. Kook Endowment Fund. He was also Chair of the New York Regional Section and organized many successful programs and sessions. His final sentence is worth quoting: “Thinking back to the years I was active in USITT, I have many fond memories. Healthwise, I’m not in the best shape, but what’s the sense of complaining?” He always had a positive attitude.

The Fellows of the Institute join in expressing our condolences to the family of Al Cohen, remembering his significant contributions to our financial stability and acknowledging his friendship to so many of us over the years.

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