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Cohen, Nathan Edward


COHEN, NATHAN EDWARD (1909–2001), U.S. social work educator. Born in Derry, New Hampshire, Cohen took his doctorate at Harvard. He worked as executive director of the Roxbury y.m.h.a., Boston, with the Jewish Community Welfare Fund in Springfield, Massachusetts, and as the director of various divisions of the National Jewish Welfare Board.

He became a professor at Columbia University's New York School of Social Work in 1954 and served as associate dean from 1955 to 1958. He co-founded the National Council on Social Work Education, helping to shape curricula across the country. He was then appointed dean of the School of Applied Social Sciences at Western Reserve University, Cleveland, of which he became vice president in 1963. In 1958, as a professor at Western (now part of Case Western Reserve), Cohen led a group of students to Selma, Alabama, to march with Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1964 he was appointed professor of social welfare at the University of California at Los Angeles. Cohen formed a team of researchers to investigate the social causes underlying the Watts riot of 1965, writing "The Los Angeles Riot Study." He served as dean of ucla's School of Social Welfare from 1964 to 1979. Cohen stressed that professional social work must contribute to changes in society by leadership and action and that social services are an enduring function of the social economy. Cohen was chairman of the National Conference of Social Welfare and was the co-founder and president of the National Association of Social Workers. At Berkeley, he and his wife, Sylvia, founded the Association for Lifelong Learning. Practicing what he preached, Cohen continued to lead current events discussions until 2000 at age 90.

His writings include Social Work in the American Tradition (1958); The Citizen Volunteer, which he edited (1960); Social Work and Social Problems (1964); and The Los Angeles Riots: A Socio-Psychological Study (1970) as well as many articles in professional journals and collections such as Social Work and The Social Welfare Forum. At ucla a foundation for the Nathan E. Cohen Doctoral Student Award in Social Welfare has been established.

[Jacob Neusner /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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