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Pitt honors spirit of cooperation, bestows honorary degree on retiring CMU president

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Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The award bestowed to outgoing Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon by the University of Pittsburgh on Friday celebrated a decade-long collaboration between the two schools whose campuses are less than a mile apart.

The honorary doctor of public service degree Cohon received during Pitt's annual honors convocation marked the first time Pitt has honored a sitting CMU president.

“Jerry and I, rather than being prisoners of envy, which would be the more normal course, have taken pride in the accomplishments of each other's university and particular satisfaction in the products of our joint efforts,” University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said.

Cohon, who will retire from CMU's presidency at the end of June, celebrated that collaborative spirit during his keynote address to the convocation, held at Carnegie Music Hall, located midway between the two universities.

“For me this is especially meaningful because of my admiration and respect for its leader, Mark Nordenberg,” said Cohon, whose CMU tartan plaid stole stood out in an ocean of Pitt blue and gold.

Molly Broad, president of the Washington-based American Council on Education said the relationship between Nordenberg and Cohon demonstrates a collaborative side of academia rarely visible to outsiders.

“There are domains in which there are competition and domains when we speak with one voice and one set of values,” Broad said.

She recalled that Cohon spoke out for Pitt when the state threatened staggering budget reductions and how Cohon and Nordenberg pooled their resources to leverage the region's position when financial problems threatened the city.

Cohon told Pitt's honorees it will fall to the universities to keep working together in the face of shrinking financial support, greater public expectations and changes in technology that likely will transform higher education.

“It may be that we are indeed entering a period when universities will change fundamentally in the way we deliver education,” Cohon said, adding that it will be critical for universities to use technology to enhance rather than detract from residential universities.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or

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