PLEASANTVILLE, NY, June 24, 2011 — Renowned environmentalist and Pace University senior fellow John Cronin was presented with the prestigious Jefferson Award in a ceremony in Washington, DC, Tuesday night. Cronin was honored for a career spanning four decades “on the front line of water quality issues.” The Jefferson Award, now in its 39th year, is named for Thomas Jefferson and was founded by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as a “Nobel Prize for public service.” Two other recipients of the Jefferson Award this year were Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and actress Marlo Thomas.
In its presentation, the Jefferson Awards Board of Selectors said Cronin “has dedicated his career to water and environmental affairs. Described as ‘Hero for the Planet’ and ‘equal parts detective, scientist and public advocate’, his efforts have inspired a legacy of programs across the globe, fighting pollution on six continents.”
In remarks at the ceremony, Cronin credited folksinger Pete Seeger and Pace University as his sources of inspiration. “When Pete took me under his wing in 1973, he said, ‘If we all work together we can change the Hudson River; we can even change the world.’ At the time I thought it impossible but his words proved to be the truest I have ever heard. Pace University lives by that credo and has given me the opportunity to reach thousands. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. I have been privileged to stand on theirs.”
Remarking on Pace University’s nomination of Cronin, President Stephen J. Friedman said, “Higher education has a duty to public service, social good and environmental protection. As our senior fellow for environmental affairs at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, John Cronin is an exemplar of our university-wide commitment to that mission. John has served the Pace community since 1985 when he co-founded the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, but his lifelong service on behalf of water issues locally and globally has benefitted us all for almost four decades.”
Cronin’s work has reached into every corner of environmentalism. A Time magazine “Hero for the Planet,” he began as a pollution hunter for the “People’s Pipewatch” at the Clearwater organization in 1973 where evidence he collected caused the first successful federal prosecution in New York State under the new Clean Water Act. He served as environmental advisor to Congressman Hamilton Fish, Jr. and Assemblyman Maurice Hinchey, and as the pollution-fighting Hudson Riverkeeper for 17 years, where his work inspired the creation of nearly 200 “Keeper” programs around the world. He authored the Hudson River Estuary Management Act, considered a model for ecosystem management, wrote “The Riverkeepers” with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., made an award-winning film about commercial fishermen, and co-founded the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges & Universities, the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, and Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, where he has served as director and CEO for five years.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey said of Cronin’s Jefferson Award, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with John Cronin to protect and restore the Hudson River for three decades and am delighted that his many years of hard work and dedicated efforts have been recognized through this award. The Hudson Valley has played a leading role in the development of the modern environmental movement, and John Cronin has made important contributions to that legacy.”