WiRED International Mourns the Loss of Sheldon S. Cohen, IRS Commissioner and WiRED Board Member

BY ALLISON KOZICHAROW; EDITED BY BERNICE BORN

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iRED International’s board of directors and its volunteers are deeply saddened by the death of the Honorable Sheldon S. Cohen, Esq., on September 4, 2018, at age 91.

 

Mr. Cohen, a tax lawyer and certified public accountant, served as Internal Revenue Service commissioner from January 1965 to January 1969. He was appointed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

 

Mr. Cohen joined WiRED’s board in its early days and lent his advice and guidance to WiRED for the next 20 years. He and the late Faye Fram Cohen, his wife of 67 years, energized WiRED in many ways from hosting annual board meetings at their home in Chevy Chase, Md., to supporting WiRED projects in underserved communities around the world.

 

In 2011 WiRED dedicated the Faye F. and Sheldon S. Cohen Community Health Education Center in Kisumu, Kenya. This naming honored the Cohens for their lifelong dedication to helping the poor, their concern for global health and their interest in projecting a positive American image abroad. All their lives, Mr. and Mrs. Cohen responded without hesitation to those in want by simply asking, “What do you need?”

 

Sheldon Stanley Cohen was born in Washington, D.C., on June 28, 1927, the son of a Lithuanian-born shopkeeper. He graduated first in his class at George Washington University in 1952, and then joined the IRS, where he and other young lawyers drafted a major overhaul of the federal income tax code. Mr. Cohen became chief counsel at the IRS in 1964 before becoming commissioner in 1965. As commissioner, he oversaw the computerization of the IRS. Mr. Cohen went on to become a director at Farr, Miller & Washington, LLP, and a lecturer at George Washington Law School as well as at various tax institutions and universities across the country.

 

Mr. Cohen is survived by his four children, Melinda Cohen of Adamstown, Md., Laura Apelbaum and Jonathan Cohen, both of Chevy Chase, Md., and Sharon Cohen of Cabin John, Md.; a brother; a sister; and 10 grandchildren.

 

 


Sheldon joined our board soon after WiRED began, and he remained an active and valuable member during the past 20 years. He generously supported WiRED, and gave us the benefit of his skills, his time and his guidance. At his invitation, I contacted him over the years about key matters as WiRED’s mission grew to meet the needs of an expanding global audience. He always wrapped his advice in a story that concluded with the lesson he wanted to offer. That way, he met you half-way and gave you the sense that you participated in discovering the answer.

 

For us at WiRED, it’s impossible to say Sheldon without saying Faye. On many occasions, they hosted WiRED’s annual board meetings at their home, and Faye took personal charge of all arrangements including the incredible lunches. She would jump into a discussion to help sort out an issue and offer valuable suggestions. Faye also took a personal interest in the humanitarian work of Sr. Bernadette Nealon, a Franciscan nun who runs a facility for orphans in Kenya. Faye supported Sr. Bernadette’s work, and helped her set up the Mitzvah Fund to pay for food and medicine for the orphans and for people with HIV/AIDS.

 

Sheldon was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat — the IRS Commissioner under Lyndon Johnson and general counsel for the Democratic National Committee. On WiRED’s board at the same time was Sen. William Brock, from Tennessee, who was Secretary of Labor, U.S. Trade Representative, and at one point chairman of the Republican National Committee. Both served in the Navy, but you didn’t see a lot else that was similar in their backgrounds.

 

One afternoon, around 15 years ago, I had lunch in Washington with Sheldon and Bill. We had some WiRED business to discuss, but a national matter was brewing at the time, and the conversation quickly turned to politics. That discussion, which I merely observed, became a remarkable demonstration of how two men from opposite sides of the aisle, could rationally debate key issues about which they fundamentally disagreed. I particularly value that exchange, especially today, given the sharp fissures in American politics. I've often wished I could have put that conversation on tape to play for people today, saying, “This is how you do it!”

 

Like all other members of WiRED’s board, I’ll miss Sheldon a great deal. He was smart and wise and generous with his time and his talents. He had a powerful and positive influence on our volunteer organization. We are so much better because of Sheldon Cohen.

 

— WiRED Director Gary W. Selnow, Ph.D.

 

 

 

With the passing of Sheldon Cohen and the recent passing of Faye, WiRED has lost two shining stars. The Cohens were warm, generous and kind people who will be sorely missed. They were very special people.

 

— Virgil Scudder, WiRED Board Member

 


 

Sheldon and his wife Faye, who recently passed away too, were so generous with their time, their charity, and their leadership of WiRED and its programs. They worked tirelessly in our behalf. We will miss them.

 

— Suellen Crano, Ph.D., WiRED Board Member

 


 

These are not only two of the nicest people I have known, but Sheldon is the epitome of the kind of presidential appointee who was appointed for his technical prowess rather than political skills, and who managed a very tough office without scandal and in a total bipartisan manner. Hopefully something we can look forward to in the future.

 

— Lewis Eigen, Ph.D., WiRED Board Member

 

I was honored to know Sheldon and hear his "war stories" about working in Washington during the Johnson years. I share the beautiful thoughts expressed by others. Sheldon and Faye will be sorely missed at Wired International.

 

— Anthony Hodge, Director, WiRED Board

 


 

I have very fond memories of our WiRED Board meetings that were hosted by Sheldon and Faye Cohen in their lovely home. Sheldon could be counted on for wise counsel and good ideas, and he and Faye were generous contributors to WiRED. Sheldon impressed me as a genuinely kind man, and I will miss him!

 

— Elizabeth Fine, Ph.D., WiRED Board Member

 


 

I was honored to meet Sheldon and Faye during WiRED board meetings at their house and was overwhelmed by their kindness. Prayers and fond memories are what we have to remember our dearly departed Sheldon. We take comfort in knowing that he is now resting in the arms of our Lord.

 

— Maryam Othman, M.D., M.P.H., WiRED Board Member

 

 

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