One of my most treasured friendships is with Eugene Cohen and his wonderful wife Shirlee, who had the somewhat questionable judgement to return that affection and invite Hope and I to Las Vegas for the celebration of Eugene’s harrumphtieth birthday. We spent a wonderful three days with a plethora of Cohen’s including Eugene’s brother and sister-in-law, the three stalwart Cohen sons along with wives and grandkids… Apparently we’ve been adopted, and I couldn’t be more humbled and honored.
After finding varying success in a number of occupations (he once sold watermelons out of a truck), an act of providence led Eugene, then in Cleveland, to begin sales training in 1963, specializing in disability income insurance with Massachusetts Indemnity Life Insurance Company. By 1967 he had become one of the youngest agency managers in company history. He built the agency from a struggling two person office to one of the company’s strongest. In 1970 he was transferred to one of the company’s flagship offices, in Chicago, with responsibility for managing a dozen agencies across the country.
In 1980 the company changed direction and the Eugene Cohen Insurance Agency was born.
From that point on Eugene has been a tireless supporter of the brokerage distribution system. The agency has been a member of both NAILBA and LifeMark Partners for decades. He became a founding member of The Plus Group, a DI focused marketing group, and in 2004 was part of the initial planning and eventual formation of the International DI Society—receiving their lifetime achievement award in 2011. In 2015 he was the recipient of the Douglas Mooers Award for Excellence, NAILBA’s, and the brokerage industry’s, highest honor. I was lucky enough to be present at both of those celebrations as well.
Eugene has served on countless carrier BGA advisory boards, bringing lessons of the past and vision for the future to myriad insurance company executives.
But in my mind Eugene’s greatest industry achievement, on a tediously long list, is the fact that for over 50 years he has diligently helped train, educate and create personal growth in literally thousands of insurance agents—instilling in them not just the necessary components of insurance sales, but more important, the ethical mandates of integrity and the imperative that service to the greatest benefit of the consumer and his beneficiaries must always come first.
Eugene takes the greatest pride in his family. He and his delightful wife Shirlee have raised the aforementioned three sons to mirror their core beliefs in faith, integrity, a strong work ethic and the responsibility of giving back to the community and to those less fortunate than themselves. The Cohens are active supporters of many charities, among them Glenkirk, an organization that provides services to intellectually disabled children and adults, the Jewish United Fund of Chicago, the NAILBA Charitable Foundation, Heart Strings, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Wounded Warriors program.
So for three heartwarming days (cooled only sporadically by the voracious appetite of the Mirage’s video poker machines) we basked in the welcome of the Cohens to honor truly one of the greatest men in our industry. If you happen to be one of the many who have been touched either by his friendship or his tireless service to our industry…send a card or a note to Eugene, wishing him a Happy Belated Harrumphtieth Birthday! [SPH]