Thanking Rick Cohen

A great loss reverberated throughout the nonprofit sector this morning when Nonprofit Quarterly announced Rick Cohen’s passing.

I don’t know how to process what his death means to philanthropy, nonprofits, or even journalism as a whole. Frankly, what I’m thinking of is when I first met him, when I asked him to speak at an event.

picture-23We had only connected over e-mail and the phone, so I had no idea what he looked like. When I was putting together the webpage for the event, I found a picture of him online, and put it up. The next time we talked on the phone, he asked where I had gotten it. I told him the website and asked if he wanted me to change it.

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s just a picture from probably 1985,” he said, laughing. “I’m an old guy now. I’m old. But don’t change it!”

When we met we would talk about nonprofits and philanthropy, and invariably I would leave knowing about three times as much as I knew walking in the door. He always asked the right questions, calling attention to the salient points while dropping the less important ones.

His insight, deep research, and nuanced perspectives have fundamentally altered my understanding of how nonprofits and philanthropy can change peoples’ lives. His kindness and support helped me grow. And most importantly, his body of work over his career helped those who needed it most.

Thank you, Rick. I will miss you deeply.

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