The University of Chicago

School of Social Service Administration Magazine

Joshua F. Cohen Helped Develop the SSA Generalist Program

Joshua Cohen

Joshua F. Cohen, a former SSA faculty member, died April 2, 2015. He was 88. During his career at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration between 1968 and 1982 he served as assistant professor, lecturer, senior lecturer, and director of the Community Mental Health Program.

Cohen was important in shaping, developing, and teaching SSA’s early generalist program, which influenced the development of the generalist idea throughout social work education. The generalist program combined casework, group work, and community work. He also developed a field work program that placed both clinical practice and social administration students together in the community, first in the Woodlawn neighborhood and Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago and later on in Evanston, IL.

Professor Emeritus John Schuerman said of Cohen, “Josh was a true intellectual with great curiosity. He was energetic, always on the go, and eager to impart to his students his great knowledge of communities and how to work with them, particularly in Chicago and Evanston.”

After leaving SSA in 1982, he served on the faculty at the Institute for Clinical Social Work in Chicago.

Cohen was born July 24, 1926 in Brooklyn, and was raised in the Bronx, New York. He and his wife, Lisa, were married in 1949 in New York and left shortly thereafter for a new life in Chicago. In his early career, Cohen worked as a community organizer and as a social worker, doing group work with the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago, as a consulting psychotherapist with the Division of Alcoholism, Illinois Department of Mental Health, and in various positions, from caseworker to assistant director, with Family Service in Lake County, Illinois. He was also a graduate of the child care (now child therapy) program at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

He received his BS in sociology from the City College of New York and an MS in social work from Columbia University. He pursued doctoral studies under a child psychology traineeship at the University of Chicago in the Division of Social Sciences (Human Development) on personality changes associated with impending fatherhood.

In his later years, Cohen consulted pro bono for the Pope John XXIII School and Youth Organizations Umbrella, both in Evanston.

He is survived by Lisa, his wife of 65 years, four sons, Matthew, Jonathan, Shaul, and Ethan, and their families.