Wilkes University Honors Lawrence E. Cohen ’57 at Founders Gala 2018
The chairman of Benco Dental was the recipient of the President's Medal at the University's annual event on June 2
Wilkes University celebrated its legacy of educating first-generation college students at the 2018 Founders Gala on Saturday, June 2 at the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Barre. The highlight of the event was the presentation of the President's Medal – the University's highest honor – to Lawrence E. Cohen '57, chairman and chief customer advocate at Benco Dental.
Proceeds from the event support the First Generation Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarship funds to students who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year degree. Culminating in Saturday's event, over $800,000 was raised this academic year, bringing the five-year total to $2.3 million.
"Wilkes University has been open to all who show potential since our founding. That legacy continues today as over half of our current students are the first in their families to pursue a four-year degree," said Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy. "The First Generation Scholarship Fund illustrates how Wilkes is a private university with a public purpose, producing graduates who make positive contributions in their fields and in the world."
The President's Medal is bestowed annually on an individual whose personal and professional life reflect the highest aspirations of Wilkes University. Cohen's support is best reflected in the University's Lawrence and Sally Cohen Science Center, a $35 million, 72,500 square-foot interdisciplinary science facility built in 2013. The science center was named in recognition of the couple's $2.5 million gift in support of the project – one of the largest gifts in Wilkes history. It brings four floors of state-of-the-art laboratories together to encourage collaborative research and study. In addition, Cohen served on the University's board of trustees for 14 years. He was granted trustee emeritus status in 2008.
Cohen enjoyed a successful career at Benco Dental, a company started by his father in the 1930s. Cohen joined Benco in 1959, when the organization served a handful of dentists in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Over the next three decades, Benco grew into one of the largest dental distributors in the United States, with sales of more than $100 million. Since the '90s, Cohen has worked closely with his sons to build Benco into the nation's largest family-owned dental distributor, serving dentists from coast to coast. He currently serves as Benco's chairman and chief customer advocate.
Cohen graduated from Wilkes University with a bachelor's degree in accounting. He went on to earn a master's degree in management and finance from Columbia University. He and his wife, Sally, are longtime residents of northeast Pennsylvania. They are parents to Chuck and wife Rebecca, and Rick, and grandparents to Benjamin and Leah.
In addition to the presentation of the President's Medal, attendees heard remarks delivered by Nancy Ramirez, Scranton, Pa.; Margaret Galatioto, Binghamton, NY; and Joshua Evans, Palmerton, Pa. Ramirez, Galatioto and Evans all graduated from Wilkes in May and reflected on their experiences as first-generation college students.
Read more about the event in the Times Leader article, "Wilkes Gala Benefits First-Generation Students."