Donald D. Cohen, who served as VOCA's much-admired president during the organization’s major expansion in the early ‘90s, died July 29, 2012.
Don’s wife, Jeanne Kersting Cohen, said he died at the Washington Home hospice in the District of Columbia of complications from pulmonary disease.
He began his career in 1962 with USAID. He served overseas as a program officer in South Korea and Turkey during the '60s and '70s. Later as USAID mission director in Thailand from 1978 to 1982, Don coordinated the creation of a refugee camp for Cambodians fleeing internal conflict. He returned to the United States, and from 1982 to 1988, he worked at the Department of State’s policy planning office. He then became director of the department’s Office of Economic Analysis.
Headed VOCA at Critical Time
In 1988, Don joined Volunteers for Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA) as chief executive. VOCA (known at inception as the Volunteer Development Corps) was established as a nongovernmental organization in 1970 to provide volunteer assistance in developing countries. VOCA was a predecessor of ACDI/VOCA.
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the nonprofit received USAID funding to extend technical assistance to a number of former Soviet countries. In some cases VOCA volunteers, U.S. farmers, businesspeople and bankers who served two- to three-week assignments, represented the first U.S. assistance on the ground—not to mention the first exposure in those countries to market economics and modern business and financial practice.
In 1994 VOCA placed an all-time high of 1,006 volunteers in 53 nations. President George H.W. Bush awarded Don the presidential End Hunger Award in 1989 for his work in Eastern Europe.
Don routinely traveled to many countries that hosted VOCA volunteers. He left VOCA in late 1996, when it merged with Agricultural Cooperative Development International (ACDI), to form ACDI/VOCA. Both organizations were arms of the U.S. cooperative community.
He later joined Plan USA, an international humanitarian group. He served as managing director until he retired in 2007.
An obituary appeared in the Washington Post August 18.
His family indicates a memorial service will take place in the fall, pending arrangements with Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, they ask that donations be made to Hope for Children US to support children and families in Africa affected by HIV/AIDS.
ACDI/VOCA has made a donation to this organization in Don’s name.
Learn more about the history behind ACDI/VOCA's development.
Learn more about ACDI/VOCA's volunteer program.