Eric began his rowing career as a freshman coxswain in high school (Roosevelt) at Greenlake Crew in Seattle, and joined the Washington Rowing team in the fall of 1978. At the UW he coxed three years in the Varsity 8, was a three-time Pac-10 champion, 1981 consensus National Champion (competing at Henley), First Team All-Conference (1981), and Co-Captain and Inspirational (1982). He graduated from the UW Foster School of Business in 1983.
Following a career in marketing research, product development, and senior marketing at Holland America Line in Seattle, Eric co-founded the web-based on-demand printing company Directflex.com and also MyTeamBook.com. During that time, he joined the Washington Rowing Stewards (1995), founding the website Huskycrew.org (2001) and writing the 100-Year History of Washington Rowing (2003). He also co-founded the non-profit retailer Husky Crew Gear (2001), and established with classmates Al Forney and Al Erickson the Class of '82 Endowed Scholarship for Men's Rowing (2012). He is also a co-founder (with the late Blake Nordstrom '82) of the non-profit Husky Rowing Foundation (2013) and continues today as an active member of the Rowing Stewards and as the historian for the UW Rowing Teams.
Eric was one of the first contacts for Daniel James Brown as he researched his bestselling novel The Boys in the Boat (2013), with Eric's commentary featured in the widely heralded PBS American Experience documentary "The Boys of '36" (2016). Eric was an invited panel member at both the Chicago and Los Angeles pre-release screening events for the "The Boys of '36", and was the panel host at the sold-out Meany Hall event on the UW campus in the summer of 2016.
Since 2016, Eric has continued to share the story of the 1936 team and the remarkable effort of this team, the uniqueness and power of rowing and the growth of individual character, and the takeaways and parallels - to the challenges we face everyday - that can be found in the sport of rowing and the story of The Boys in the Boat. He has presented to private audiences large and small on overcoming adversity, the power of common goals, and the transformative change that can happen within a team when trust and personal commitment rise above self.
In 2016 the University of Washington honored Eric with the Dave and Ruth Cohn award for outstanding service and support of University of Washington athletics with the following statement:
ERIC COHEN RECEIVES DAVE AND RUTH COHN ALUMNI MERIT AWARD
“Rowing taught me hard work for a greater purpose, for a sum that’s bigger than the parts,” says Eric Cohen, ‘82. Eric is the recipient of the 2016 Cohn Award for outstanding service and support to UW Athletics by a former letter-winner.
The Cohen family bleeds purple and gold. Eric’s parents met on a blind date at a Husky basketball game more than 60 years ago. They raised their family in the neighborhood abutting the UW and Lake Washington, where a young Eric would watch Husky rowers with his dad. His wife Heidi’s grandmother rowed on the UW crew team in 1918. Their daughter, Monica, attends the UW and is a pole vaulter on the UW Track Team.
“I had a strong passion for athletics and wanted to play football, but I was five-foot-four in high school and weighed 85 pounds,” says Eric. “I wanted to compete, and rowing was it.”
Living in the crew house, coxing the Varsity 8 to conference championships and making lifelong friends had such an impact on Eric that he joined The Washington Rowing Board of Stewards in 1995 where he serves as the team historian, wrote a history of the program in 2003, and created the program’s original website in 2001. He consulted on the PBS documentary, The Boys of ’36, and the famed book, The Boys in the Boat. Eric and teammate Al Forney founded Husky Crew Gear to raise money for the program, and along with teammate Al Erickson, they ultimately established the Class of ’82 Scholarship Endowment for Rowing. Eric and Heidi are longtime personal donors as well. Eric credits his teammates — and his wife — for enabling him to devote so much of his time and energy to supporting the program he loves.
"Giving back is almost a requirement after all this program gave me,” Eric says. Congratulations, Eric, and thank you for all you do for Washington Rowing.