A Legacy of Ideas and People

Last week, western Pennsylvania lost one of its most admired leaders: Jared “Jerry” Cohon. Among a long list of notable roles and accomplishments, somewhat less known is Jerry’s pivotal role in advancing awareness and dialogue around energy and climate issues in the region.

Whether co-chairing the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics Shale Gas Roundtable, leading Carnegie Mellon University Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, chairing the Health Effects Institute Energy affiliate, or his frequent engagement in key gatherings near and far, Jerry saw the value of the bringing people together and addressing key challenges head on.

Among his many contributions to environmental policy-making in western Pennsylvania, Dr. Cohon chaired the Sewer Regionalization Review Panel representing local government, foundations, academia, legal, environmental, water & sewer authorities, nonprofit and private organizations to identify a true regional approach to wastewater and storm water management for Allegheny County.

“You cannot solve water problems without taking an approach that matches the scale of the problem,” he said on PEC’s Pennsylvania Legacies podcast in 2018. “Rivers don’t know about political boundaries, and they don’t care about political boundaries.”

A 2018 winner of PEC’s Lifetime Achievement Award, his tireless leadership and intelligence were surpassed only by his kindness. We will forever be grateful for his participation, presence, and contributions to Pennsylvania.

“I was really attracted by engineering problems that touched people’s lives, and where the design and solutions to the problems required you to think about people,” he said in a video tribute produced for the occasion.

Dr. Cohon played a role in many of our stakeholder discussions around decarbonization issues, including the 2017 Achieving Deep Carbon Reductions conference, and brought his calm yet steadfast disposition to work with all perspectives on finding solutions.


Dr. Cohon on the Pennsylvania Legacies podcast in 2018

“The most important product from Carnegie Mellon, and places like Carnegie Mellon, is our students. There, there’s reason for hope,” Dr. Cohon said in his 2018 podcast interview. When asked about his legacy in the fight against climate change, he again pointed to his students:

“When you’re part of it, and you interact with these young people… you can’t help but think that there really is a legacy there. It’s a legacy of ideas, and people — and the people that will come after them, that they will influence and educate. And there’s reason [to think] that those people will figure this out.”