Selwyn Cohen

1939 – 2014

Selwyn passed away on 6 August 2014 after a long struggle with illness. At Kearsney he was in Gillingham House and was a very active member of the Debating Society and subsequently of the Kearsney Parliament where he held a ministerial portfolio. His classmates recall that he was an indefatigable re-writer of study notes – he was inclined even to brag about the number of pages of writing he did in preparation for exams – this hard work consistently ensured that he was placed near the top of the class

After school he studied at Wits University graduating with a B.A. LLB. had a very successful career in the legal profession. He was admitted to the bar as an attorney in 1963, as a conveyancer in 1966 and as a Notary in 1971. His colleagues describe him as: “an exceptional attorney;  a giant of a man not only in stature but in brilliance and heart; a legend – his vast knowledge of the law was unsurpassed”. Selwyn  was a director of Routledge Modise Attorneys, Johannesburg. and wrote articles for a variety of publications such as Business Law & Tax Review, The Professional Accountant, The Banker and Business Brief, and was the co-author of Butterworths Forms & Presidents – Commercial Transactions 3 : Leases. For 26 years he also edited ‘Law News’ which was the company newsletter for clients & contacts.  He was a former commissioner of the Small Claims Court and a member of the disciplinary committee of the Northern Provinces. He was a member of the International Association of Consumer Law. Selwyn never really retired and when Routledge Modise entered into a merger with Hogan Lovells International recently Selwyn became a consultant in their Commercial Real Estate Department with the with emphasis on property, insolvency, securities, commercial litigation and arbitration

He was from his Kearsney days, already a highly competitive, driven type of person; outside of his professional achievements, his determination was expressed in his winning at least five Comrades Marathon  medals, and in getting his golf handicap down to eleven. He is also remembered as a formidable opponent in Klaberjass, a point-trick card game popular in Jewish communities.

His colleagues relate touching stores of his generosity, he was always willing to help financially when he heard of those in need or those who had fallen on hard times. Selwyn was married twice and had three children Mervyn, Valerie and Elana, all of whom live in Australia. He was close to his sister Carol, who lives in the UK with her family. Selwyn attended a lunch in Johannesburg a year or two ago with a few of his classmates from the class of ’56 and also attended a Survivor’s lunch recently at St Stithians ‘One and All” clubhouse.

A friend of Selwyn’s observed how many “Men of Influence” attended Selwyn’s funeral to pay their last respects – his long-term clients had become his personal friends, and Johannesburg’s legal illuminati held this master of his profession in great awe.

Kearsney can be justifiably proud of its role in helping to form this character, and in inculcating the values on which a stellar career and worthy life were built.