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Former students and friends make gift to establish the Jerome A. and Joan L. Cohen Professorship

A group of more than 75 former students and friends of Jerome and Joan Cohen have come together to honor the couple by endowing a professorship at Harvard Law School in their name. It will be known as the Jerome A. and Joan L. Cohen Professorship of East Asian Legal Studies.

A committee comprising Jeanette K. Chan LLM ’86, Professor Alison W. Conner JD ’73, David R. Halperin JD ’74, and Dr. Michael J. Moser JD ’80 led the efforts to establish the fund.

“Jerry was not only a pioneer in the field of East Asian legal studies but has also been a truly inspirational teacher and wonderful mentor to his students and friends,” said Mr. Halperin, a former student of Professor Cohen and a Hong Kong-based partner of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

“He encouraged me to pursue a career in Asia, and in so doing, he changed my life. For that I will forever be grateful,” he continued. “Both Jerry and Joan, through their encouragement, generosity, and friendship, have touched the lives and shaped the careers of generations of Harvard Law School students, and coincidentally encouraged many of their students to take an interest in Asia art in all its forms.” Mr. Halperin and Richard M. Cashin Jr. AB ’75, MBA ’80 made lead gifts toward the professorship.

Jerry Cohen, who served as a law clerk to Justices Felix Frankfurter ’06 and Earl Warren, became a professor at Harvard Law School in 1964 and taught here for 17 years. Early in his tenure at Harvard, Professor Cohen created the Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies program, the oldest and most extensive academic program in the United States devoted to the study of the law and legal history of the nations and peoples of East Asia and their interaction with the United States.

Professor Cohen is an expert in Chinese law, a senior fellow for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and of counsel at the international law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He has been a professor at New York University School of Law since 1990 and is the Faculty Director of its US-Asia Law Institute.

Joan Lebold Cohen is a photographer, art historian, and curator who specializes in Chinese art and film. She has taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and, with Jerome Cohen, is the author of China Today and Her Ancient Treasures. A graduate of Smith College, she received the Smith College Outstanding Alumna Award in 1990.

“It has been an enormous privilege, personally and professionally, to have known Jerry and Joan Cohen since my time as a student at Harvard Law School,” said the Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law William P. Alford JD ‘77, Director of East Asian Legal Studies, Vice Dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies, and Chair of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability.

“Each has been a pioneer and inspiration in their field. Jerry is a fount of wisdom, creativity, and wit. As the Chinese saying goes, 桃李满天下—the fruits of his teaching have spread throughout the world—as evidenced by the fact that so many students and friends have come together to honor the Cohens.”

Professors Alford and Cohen are collaborating on a book (along with former National Taiwan University Dean and current Constitutional Court Justice Lo Chang-fa, SJD ’89), tentatively titled Taiwan and International Human Rights: Turning Isolation to Advantage.

“Jerry Cohen launched the East Asian Legal Studies some 50 years ago, and his vision remains inspiring to this enduring and critical effort,” added Martha Minow, former dean of Harvard Law School and Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence. “There could be no more meaningful tribute to Jerry and Joan than ensuring unending East Asian studies teaching and scholarship for new generations, and I am so grateful to the committee and fund contributors for honoring Jerry and Joan in this way.”

“The Harvard Law School community is wonderfully dedicated to the school and its mission of advancing knowledge and having an impact on things that matter here and around the world, and this generous gift, made in the Cohens’ name, by so many of Professor Cohen’s HLS friends and past students, is a wonderful testament to that deep sense of commitment,” added John Manning ’85, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law.