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Cohon, Nordenberg lead winners of Carnegie Science Awards for universities' collaboration

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 6:39 p.m.

Jared L. Cohon and Mark A. Nordenberg worked together as leaders of the region's premier research universities to improve Western Pennsylvania. Now they'll accept an award for that.

The Carnegie Science Center said on Thursday that Cohon, former president of Carnegie Mellon University, and Nordenberg, outgoing chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, jointly won the Chairman's Award, its highest distinction.

The center selected them and 27 other individuals and organizations, including reporter Mary Ann Thomas of Trib Total Media, who received an honorable mention as a science communicator.

“If you look at what this region has accomplished over the past decade, you can't tell that story without Dr. Cohon's name or Dr. Nordenberg's coming up,” said Ann Metzger, Henry Buhl Jr. co-director of the center. “Their success is about the collaboration and the willingness to work together to accomplish a regional goal.”

The center started the Carnegie Science Awards in 1997 to recognize and promote outstanding science and technology achievements in Western Pennsylvania. The program has honored more than 400 individuals and organizations that helped improve lives through commitment and contributions in science and technology.

Nordenberg became interim chancellor of Pitt in 1995 and was elected chancellor a year later. When Cohon was named president of Carnegie Mellon, Nordenberg sent flowers to his office at Yale University — the first overture in their relationship.

“We believed then, and still believe, if you look at the combined academic firepower of Pitt and CMU, only one city exceeds us, and that is Cambridge,” Nordenberg said. Cambridge, Mass., is home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Cohon attributed their relationship's success to the proximity of the two schools — campuses just blocks apart in Oakland — and their complementary nature. Carnegie Mellon's strengths are computer science and robotics; Pitt's is health sciences.

“You could make a reasonable argument that all the technology-based economic development (here) has been affected by the collaboration because of the infrastructure we created,” Cohon said.

Metzger said the center recognized the two leaders for collaboration such as fighting to preserve federal funding for the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center when it was threatened with cuts, and starting joint programs such as the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse and Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. She said Nordenberg and Cohon exemplify an important skill needed for the 21st century — teamwork.

“We think they have modeled the way an entire community should behave, for the good of the region,” she said.

Nordenberg and Cohon believe cooperation between the universities will endure even after their retirements.

“The expectation that Pitt and CMU will be strong and committed partners has been institutionalized,” said Nordenberg, who plans to retire in June. “Everyone has seen the good that flows from it.”

The science center will formally honor its award winners at Carnegie Music Hall on May 9. Three student winners, who will be chosen at the center's 75th annual Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair, will be recognized.

Bill Zlatos is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7828 or

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