AFTAU Toasts the Productive Leadership of William F. Cohen

Outgoing Chairman of the Board is honored at warm reception in Tel Aviv

Bill Cohen and Gail Reiss
Bill Cohen and
AFTAU President & CEO Gail Reiss

American Friends and Tel Aviv University dignitaries gathered for an intimate sunset reception at the Tel Aviv Hilton on May 14, 2011, in appreciation of William F. Cohen as he completed his second term as Chairman of the Board of Directors of American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

One after another, guests rose to thank Bill for four years of constructive and effective leadership, expressing their admiration and affection for a valued friend.

TAU President Joseph Klafter paid tribute to Bill's skillful stewardship, presenting him with a Tel Aviv University Chairman's Award that recognized his "exceptional devotion to advancing higher education as a key to Israel's security and prosperity."

Alan Aufzien, Marshall Polk, Joseph Klafter
Alan Aufzien, Marshall Polk
and Prof. Joseph Klafter

One of Bill's earliest mentors at AFTAU, Chairman Emeritus Alan Aufzein, presented him with a commemorative montage of photos showing him with an array of university and international dignitaries and at his father's honorary degree conferral at TAU in 1995. Explaining why he proposed Bill for the chairmanship in 2007, Alan said, "I watched Billy, as a young man, step admirably into his dad's place. I know him to be a hard worker, excelling in everything he does."

A legacy of involvement

Bill traces his passion for the university to a simple request from his father, who was deeply committed to Israel and to TAU. He established the B.I. and Lucille Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research and also served on TAU's Board of Governors.

"In 1994," Bill recalls, "with my father's health deteriorating, he asked me to attend a BOG meeting as his representative. A dutiful son, I went — and I was hooked. Seventeen years later, I'm still here."

Gail White, who heard an outpouring of warmth for Bill and all the Cohen family. The tone for the gathering was set by AFTAU Secretary Marshall Polk, serving as master of ceremonies, who thanked Bill for "inspired and inspiring leadership."

Stevie, Jon and Gene Gurkoff
Stevie, Jon and Gene Gurkoff

Reinforcing the generational theme of the evening, AFTAU Treasurer Jon Gurkoff, who was elected to succeed Bill as Chairman on May 23, 2011, read a message from his father-in-law, Mel Taub. Himself a Chairman Emeritus of the American Friends group, Mel lauded "Billy's integrity and personality."

AFTAU COO Ari Wein presented Bill with a crystal keepsake in appreciation of his service, and quoted the words "wisdom" and "leadership" the Torah uses to describe the Kohanim, calling Bill Cohen a truly worthy descendant.

An ongoing commitment

Itamar Rabinovich, Yoel Saraf, Bill Cohen
Former TAU President Itamar Rabinovich, Yoel Saraf and Bill Cohen

Insisting that as Chairman he had gotten much more than he had given, Bill thanked the guests and promised — with characteristic enthusiasm — to stay involved because "this is a wonderful way to support the State of Israel."

"I'll have more time for specific projects that are dear to my heart," he said. One such mission is fostering a strong TAU Alumni Association for the 16,000 OSP participants and TAU alumni currently living in the United States, many of whom hold prominent positions on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley, in Hollywood, and at top universities. Another is producing a significant series of promotional films featuring TAU professors and their groundbreaking work, to be used as a highly effective marketing tool.

"Education is Israel's key to the future," Bill says. "For me, seeing the eager young faces on campus is a pure, inspiring joy I'll look forward to for many years to come."

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