Association of Illinois
Thoughts on Eli Cohen
By friend and colleague Clyde N. Baker Jr.
Eli Cohen is the person that I would most like to be like when I grow
up. Iíve known Eli since 1956 when he first joined the structural
engineering firm started by Paul Rogers. Over the past 51 years, Eli and
I worked together on hundreds of projects. My involvement was on the
underground as a geotechnical engineer. Eli was the structural engineer,
and the structural engineer relies on the geotechnical engineer for the
necessary foundation design information, so teamwork and mutual
confidence are essential.
Very quickly we learned we shared common values and we became life-long
friends. Eliís heritage is Jewish and mine is Protestant Quaker. The
values we shared are a liberal, open-minded view of the world, with a
respect for each individual, a commitment to fairness, honesty and
integrity and a balance of family responsibilities and passion for our
work. Eli was three years older than I am, so I looked to him as a
mentor for success in our profession. Eli always let me know about
professional meetings and client open houses where I could meet
potential clients. He seemed to know everybody and would introduce me to
everyone he knew. I know I owe more than I can say to Eliís generous
Eliís 50-year career has spanned our post-war building boom and Eliís
contributions are evident in our beautiful Chicago skyline, with the
many high rise structures that stand out. Much of his career was spent
with partners Tony Marchertas, Renato Barreto, and Betty Gornick with
the firm locally known as CBM, before merging with the Thornton
Tomasetti Group. Eli has won too many awards to mention all of them, but
among his awards are the 2002 Chicago Illini of the Year award, the 2002
ASCE lifetime achievement award, the ACI Henry Crown award and the John
Parmer award, which is recognized locally as the top structural
engineering award. He also believed in giving back to the community and
served his profession as an early President of the Structural Engineers
Association of Illinois and as a working member of many other
professional organizations, including being an early and long term
member of the Chicago Committee on High Rise Buildings. He believed
strongly in teaching and mentoring young engineers and taught as an
adjunct professor at the University of Illinois and as a guest lecturer
at various universities.
Eli also had musical talent. An unusual talent was the ability to play a
comb like a harmonica and he would share this talent with his colleagues
at gala affairs, like the Chicago High Rise Committee Annual party.
However, I believe Eliís greatest legacy is his effect on his friends
and colleagues, including his competitors. I have never heard anyone say
anything negative about Eli. Iíve also never heard Eli say negative
things about other people. Eli always seemed to add a little spark of
good will to any professional or social gathering he was in. His spirit
was and is infectious. Eli was aware of what was important in life and
manís place in it. He never complained when he lost a job to a
competitor. He would just say, ďThey need to eat too.Ē He always seemed
to have enough work. Human relationships were always more important than
A working philosophy for living a successful life which I learned from
watching Eli is:
Be appreciative. There are new opportunities every day.
Be inquisitive. There is always more to learn.
Be generous. Share your gifts and talents, both material and spiritual.
Be positive. Build relationships that last. Life is more than material
Be passionate. Live passionately and enjoy what you do.
To this I could add, be a lover. Eli was a lover of life. He loved
intensely his wife Georgia of 50 years and their remarkable family. He
also loved his friends, both old and new. He was truly a lover of the
world and what it could be if each of us followed this path. He believed
passionately in the possibility of peace.
On my last visit with Eli, I was prepared to talk about all the great
projects that we had worked on together and where he had been
instrumental in getting me involved. But he was more interested in
watching a little bird that came knocking on his window, as if he had a
message for Eli. He was more interested in Godís creations than his own.
We will all miss Eli dearly, but in hopes of helping us through the
grieving process, I would like to read a passage from a poem on death by
William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania.
They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.
Death cannot kill what never dies,
nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same divine
The root and record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.
Death is but crossing the world as friends do the seas.
They live in one another still.
For they must needs be present,
that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
In this divine glass, they see face to face.
And there converse is free as well as pure.
Auf Wiedersehen and Shalom.
May our spirits always touch wherever we may be.