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Folger Story

Louis and Bonnie Cohen

Part of our series spotlighting donors to The Wonder of Will: The Campaign for the Folger Shakespeare Library.

A childhood visit to the Folger began Lou Cohen’s lifelong journey with Shakespeare. Lou and his wife Bonnie are supporting The Wonder of Will so that future generations of young learners can have such formative experiences.

A Lifelong Connection

Lou and Bonnie Cohen have spent nearly six decades in Washington, since moving here after meeting and surviving graduate school at Harvard.

Both enjoyed distinguished careers – Lou as a constitutional lawyer who has argued 16 cases before the Supreme Court and Bonnie as an executive in the private sector and in government, where she served as Assistant Secretary of the Interior and later Undersecretary of State.

The Cohens have two children, Amanda and Eli, who have given them five grandchildren. Their lives have been filled with family, travel, theatre, literature, art, and engagement with their community. The Folger has been a big part of both their lives, and Lou chaired the Folger Board of Governors from 2013 to 2019.

Lou fondly recalls being taken to the Folger as a child by his immigrant grandfather. He was struck by the grandeur of the space and even more by the remarkable importance of Shakespeare and the Folger to his grandfather, a man not fully literate in English. Lou’s lifelong fascination with Shakespeare was nurtured by his parents, but it was the childhood visit that began a lasting connection to the Folger.

With this experience and his leadership skills, Lou guided the Folger in formulating its 2013 Strategic Plan and the plans for the transformative renovation now under way, and in the launch of The Wonder of Will: The Campaign for the Folger Shakespeare Library, knowing first-hand that a visit to a welcoming Folger can have an enduring impact on everyone. The Cohens were early leaders in the campaign and have made a $1 million commitment to realize its goals.

The Future

“Shakespeare is a treasure for all time and for people of every background, and the Folger is the best possible place to enter his world and bring him into ours.” – Lou Cohen

With the renovation made possible by The Wonder of Will, the opportunities for lifelong engagement with the Folger will increase far beyond previous scope and capacity. New exhibition halls will bring unparalleled opportunity for discovery for students, tourists, and families. One of those opportunities will be to learn about the First Folios in the First Folio Gallery where the Folger’s 82 copies will be on permanent display. Among them is Folio 16, which will be associated with the Cohens in recognition of their leadership and extraordinary generosity.

The Folger is grateful for Lou and Bonnie Cohen’s powerful vision and commitment, which will leave an indelible impact not only on the Folger itself, but on the lives of many young visitors who will start their Shakespeare journey inside the Library’s welcoming doors.