February 21, 2002

Associates Remember WEI Director

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Edward Cohen-Rosenthal, the senior extension associate in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) and founding director of the Work and Environment Initiative (WEI) at the Cornell Center for the Environment, died last month at the Gilchrist Hospice Center in Baltimore, MD.

A champion of environmentally conscious workplaces, Cohen-Rosenthal’s work involved studies in multiple academic areas as he promoted ecological awareness.

“He worked across departments on problems that didn’t fit easily in one department,” said Prof. John Forrester, city and regional planning. “In a way, he fit everywhere and no where.”

During his tenure with ILR beginning in 1991, he functioned as a consultant for various private companies, government agencies and unions in regards to their organizational efficiency and their labor-management infrastructure.

In an effort to tackle ecological challenges faced by industries and their communities, he founded the WEI, a consulting initiative created to aid the establishment of environmentally efficient workplaces in economically-troubled regions of the country.

“He was working on problems that were years ahead of their time,” said Forrester. “He had the persistence and the courage to keep pushing for solutions.”

The co-author of two books, Mutual Gains: A Guide to Union Management Cooperation and Unions, Cohen-Rosenthal also wrote over 50 additional articles concerning environmental and labor-related issues.

Many people remember Cohen-Rosenthal for the uniquely enthusiastic and optimistic approach that they feel he took towards his career and his life in general. In addition to his many contributions to labor relations and ecology, he was a husband, a father and an active member of The Temple of Beth-El.

Recalling the faith and determination that many believe he exhibited in all facets of his life, Jane Powers, Ph.D. ’85, who works at the Family Life Development Center, said, “He will be remembered as an incredible force and spirit…[He was] a person that could be reverent and irreverent at the same time.”

A former neighbor of Cohen-Rosenthal and a current member of The Temple of Beth-El, Powers recalled the few years in which Cohen-Rosenthal and his wife, Ellen, served as co-presidents of the congregation.

“[He was a] creative, energetic, dynamic president,” she said.

Prof. David Powers, Arabic and Islamic studies, added, “[In delivering speeches to Bar and Bat Mizvahs] he always had something very meaningful to say.”

In the remaining weeks of Cohen-Rosenthal’s life, the influential leader received numerous visits from well-wishers, traveling from locations across the globe to pay him a final call.

“This guy fought this disease to the nail,” said Jane Powers, in reference to Cohen-Rosenthal’s six-year-long battle with cancer. “People came from all over the world to say goodbye to him.”

Cohen-Rosenthal is survived by his wife and children, Janna, Mollie, and Jacob. He was 49 at the time of his death.

Archived article by Ellen Miller