For nearly 60 years—the past 30 at NYU School of Law—Professor Jerome A. Cohen has been a towering figure in the fields of Chinese law and East Asian legal studies. To celebrate him on the occasion of his retirement on June 30, the Law School is delighted to announce the establishment of an endowed chair in his name, as well as a series of virtual events this fall focused on critical legal issues in East Asia.
Longtime friends of Jerry Cohen, Andrew Duncan and Bess Weatherman, spearheaded the campaign to establish the Jerome A. Cohen Professorship of Law by seeding the chair with a generous gift. They then worked closely with Cohen’s extended family of former students, scholars, and others around the world to fully endow the chair. Others contributing were Jack Huang, founder and chairman of Taiwan Renaissance Platform, and former partner-in-charge of Jones Day, Taipei; Daniel Tsai, chairman of Fubon Group; and additional supporters who wish to remain anonymous.
Once a faculty member is selected for the professorship, the Law School will announce an inaugural chair event to mark the occasion.
“Jerry is one of the foremost authorities on a document that many often forget about,” says Duncan. “China has a constitution too—using that as his cornerstone, Jerry has been an unsurpassed ambassador for Chinese rule of law. Jerry knows that there cannot be healthy capitalism without healthy rule of law. The true gift of Jerry Cohen is his coaching tree—literally generations of younger people around the globe. It is Jerry’s commitment to the children of the Sino American relationship which will remain with me for the rest of my days.”
“We are thrilled to endow a chair in Jerry’s name, and grateful to Andrew and Bess for being so instrumental in making that possible,” says Dean Trevor Morrison. “This will not only honor one of the original leaders of the field of Asian legal studies in the West; it will also guarantee the long-term sustainability of Jerry’s path-breaking work, enabling NYU Law to continue as a vital center for the study of Asian legal systems and an active participant in US-Asian exchanges on critical issues of law and policy.” Morrison adds: “It is especially fitting to announce this now, since tomorrow, July 1, is Jerry’s 90th birthday. On behalf of the entire Law School community, I offer him our congratulations, admiration, thanks, and best wishes.”
After graduating from Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, Cohen clerked at the US Supreme Court for Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice Felix Frankfurter. After starting his teaching career at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, in 1964 he joined the faculty at Harvard Law School, founding the school’s East Asian Legal Studies program. As a partner (and now of counsel) at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, he concentrated on business law in Asia. Cohen has been a key player in US-China relations since the Nixon administration, and throughout his career, he has been a leading advocate for legal reform and human rights in China, Taiwan, and elsewhere. Over the years, he taught and mentored generations of students, has been a prolific author, and has earned numerous awards and honors, including, in 2018, the Order of the Rising Sun from the Government of Japan, and earlier this year, an honorary doctor of laws degree from Yale University.
“Jerry’s leadership and vision created the whole field of Chinese legal studies, and his sharp, critical voice—fueled by a lifelong commitment to justice—continues to guide and challenge all of us,” says Sharon Hom ’80, executive director of the nonprofit Human Rights in China and director of the China and International Human Rights Research Program of the Robert Bernstein Human Rights Institute at the Law School.
“Jerry has trained generations of China experts over decades, and now the chair bearing his name will continue to turn out even more experts for generations to come at this crucial point in U.S.-China relationship,” says Jack Huang.
At NYU Law, Cohen co-founded the US-Asia Law Institute (USALI), serving as faculty director until January 2020. As faculty director emeritus, Cohen will continue his research and writing on Asian law, specifically focusing on legal institutions, criminal justice reform, dispute resolution, human rights, and the role of international law relating to China and Taiwan. José Alvarez, Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law, who is now lead faculty adviser for USALI, says, “When the dean approached me about the position, I hesitated long and hard because Jerry Cohen was an impossible act to follow. There is no way any ordinary human being can possibly emulate him. His influence on the world exceeds anyone that I have been fortunate to know—in government, in private practice, or in academe.”
The Law School and USALI are currently developing a series of virtual programs in the fall in honor of Cohen and will issue further information on those events when it becomes available.
To make a gift in honor of Professor Cohen’s retirement and 90th birthday in support of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute's endowment efforts, please reach out to Assistant Dean for Development & Alumni Relations Nick Vagelatos at firstname.lastname@example.org.