Selma Cohen Swaim is flanked by Cohen scholarship recipients Alex LaBella and Christopher Martin

Dynamic Duo Captures Joel Cohen Scholarships

Selma Cohen Swaim is flanked by Cohen scholarship recipients Alex LaBella and Christopher Martin

August 15, 2018

Joel Cohen’s classmates will never forget the enormous spirit for school and community that he displayed throughout his life. Huntington High School held a prominent position on the list of things most important to him. He was widely regarded as one of its proudest and most accomplished graduates.

The well-known local business owner was so successful that following his death, the Cohen family endowed a generous scholarship to perpetuate his memory at his alma mater. This year the fund presented two $1,000 awards to Class of 2018 members Alex LaBella and Christopher Martin.

Mr. LaBella played on Huntington’s football, indoor track and lacrosse teams, distinguishing himself in all three sports. He sang the Star Spangled Banner before a basketball game in the school gym and garnered numerous academic and athletic honors. He is headed to Hobart University where he was recruited to play on the football team. He plans to study criminal justice to prepare for a career in law enforcement.

Mr. Martin played football, volleyball and lacrosse for the Blue Devils. He was named a Distinguished Senior after recording an academic grade average of 90 or better during every semester of high school. The teenager will be attending the University of North Carolina at Asheville and studying for a career in engineering

At UNC Ashville, Mr. Martin will be participating in the “2 plus 2” program that will see him transfer to North Carolina State for his junior and senior years and finish his degree requirements as part of that school’s very highly regarded engineering program. He’s going this route because out of state residents have a very difficult time gaining admittance to NC State.

Joel Cohen was a proud Blue Devil

Joel Cohen was born in Huntington and was as thoroughly a Blue Devil as any one person can possibly be. A 1939 Huntington graduate, he was an exceptional student and an essential member of several athletic teams, including the powerful football squad led by storied head coach William Class. He later served a long and fruitful stretch as president of the Huntington High School Alumni Association.

A large old-fashioned, non-mechanical megaphone that Mr. Cohen used to drive classmates into near delirium during athletic events is in the collection of Huntington’s School Heritage Museum. It symbolizes a bygone era in Blue Devil sports history.

The famed owner of a local business products company, Mr. Cohen was deeply involved in the community and many of its organizations. He organized the Town of Huntington’s celebration of America’s bicentennial in 1976. It was in this spirit of service to others that the Cohen family created the Joel H. and Selma D. Cohen Vocational Scholarship following the Huntington alum’s untimely death. The first award was presented in 1994.

Mrs. Cohen presented the scholarship to Messrs. LaBella and Martin during the senior academic awards ceremony in the school auditorium. She spoke eloquently about both teenagers and their accomplishments and future plans.

Mr. Cohen’s contributions to Huntington are forever recognized in Heckscher Park, where a Japanese cherry tree was planted in his honor. The tree is accompanied by an engraved plaque celebrating the generous gentleman who will always be remembered as one of the most colorful characters in local history.

Mrs. Cohen announced that the scholarship has been presented in each of the past 25 years following Mr. Cohen’s death and that the 2018 awards would be the final ones.

Joel H. and Selma D. Cohen Vocational Scholarship Recipients

2018 Alex LaBella, Christopher Martin
2017 Anna Luna-Mancia
2016 Samuel Weitzner
2015 Mary Sheehan
2014 Nicholas Tonks
2013 Raynisha Witherspoon
2012 Gabriella Cuadra
2011 Meleika Amos
2010 Elizabeth Mohr
2009 Haquan Caleb
2008 Eva Valerio, Brian Venturino
2007 Jose Saravia
2006 Sean Rowland
2005 Matthew Mohlenhoff
2004 Juan Sanchez
2003 Adam Johnson
2002 Danielle Plummer 
Cohen scholarship recipient Alex LaBella is headed to Hobart College.
Cohen scholarship recipient Alex LaBella is headed to Hobart College.
Cohen scholarship recipient Chris Martin is headed to Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville.
Cohen scholarship recipient Chris Martin is headed to Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville.
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