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CMU president Jared Cohon plans to step down in 2013

| Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010

Despite what he called pressure from school board members to serve a fourth five-year term as Carnegie Mellon University's president, Jared L. Cohon announced yesterday that he would step down on June 30, 2013.

"It's just time," Cohon, 62, said during a conference call with reporters. A CMU tenured-faculty member, he plans to teach courses spanning civil and environmental engineering and public policy.

"Sometimes individuals can go on for longer than they should," Cohon said. "Universities need new leaders from time to time. They need people with fresh ideas."

Still, it will be difficult to give up his post as president, he said. "I'll miss everything about it."

Cohon has led CMU since 1997. By the time he retires as the university's head, he will have been the school's third-longest serving president with 16 years at the helm. During his tenure, CMU's enrollment has grown, research dollars have ballooned, and its endowment has increased.

When Cohon arrived, Carnegie Mellon had no international-degree programs. Today, it boasts more than a dozen -- including an undergraduate campus in Qatar founded in 2004, which has graduated three classes. CMU officials founded a Silicon Valley campus in 2002. It offers master's degrees in programs such as software engineering, networking and security and mobility.

"Jerry has cultivated and recruited an outstanding faculty," said Robert Berdahl, president of the Washington-based Association of American Universities. Only 63 schools are members of the invitation-only AAU, a nonprofit organization comprising research universities viewed as innovative institutions and scholarship leaders.

"He is nationally and internationally respected as a leader," Berdahl said.

Penn State University President Graham Spanier called Cohon "one of the great leaders in American higher education in the modern era."

Spanier said he is delighted to continue working with him for the next three years.

"In addition to dramatically growing CMU's global reputation as an academic and research powerhouse, Jerry has always been a leader and a friend here at home -- working collaboratively with other university presidents on common issues," said Charles J. Dougherty, president of Duquesne University.

Among his proudest achievements, Cohon highlighted research relationship he and University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg have forged.

"We are working to improve the quality of life for disabled and elderly people through the neuro and cognitive sciences and with robots," Cohon said, citing one example.

"The day that Jerry Cohon arrived at Carnegie Mellon was a lucky day for Pittsburgh, for Pitt and for me," Nordenberg said. "Not only has Dr. Cohon led his own university to new levels of accomplishment and impact, but he has been a wonderful partner for Pitt and a committed citizen of the broader community. ... The depth of our partnership can be seen in the fact that I trust him to represent Pitt and he trusts me to represent CMU in a wide range of settings."

Cohon's total compensation is $802,931, said CMU spokesman Ken Walters. He has not received a raise in the past two years, Walters said, and returned a bonus that was part of his last contract renewal in 2007 of $92,710 as a gift to the university.

Cohon came to Carnegie Mellon from Yale University, where he was dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and professor of environmental systems analysis, Walters said. He joined Yale after 19 years at The Johns Hopkins University, where his last position was dean of engineering and vice provost for research.

Cohon earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Additional Information:

Parting numbers

CMU feats during President Jared L. Cohon's 13 years:


1997: $592 million

2010: $815 million

Sponsored research

1997: $165.8 million

2010: $320.4 million

International degree programs

1997: 0

2010: More than a dozen

Total students

1997: 7,758

2010: 11,002

Applicants for freshman class

1997: 13,314

2010: 26,431

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