John Cahir

Visitation at Funeral Home

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Friday, June 14, 2024
Koch Funeral Home
2401 S. Atherton St.
State College, Pennsylvania, United States


9:00 am
Saturday, June 15, 2024
Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church
820 Westerly Parkway
State College, Pennsylvania, United States

Obituary of John J. Cahir

Dr. John J. Cahir, long-standing and passionate member of the Penn State and State College communities, died last week while enjoying a beautiful summer afternoon at home with his wife of 61 years, MaryAnne Schrott Cahir.

John Cahir was born in Scituate, a coastal Massachusetts town, the youngest of 5 children of Jeremiah Cahir and Mary Duggan Cahir, Irish immigrants who met in the Boston area. His own father having died when he was a baby, John grew up under the keen eye of his mother, who cleaned houses, and his older siblings Anne, Mary, Jerry, and Patricia. Although having only an eighth grade education herself, his mother instilled in him a deep belief in the importance of education. This value became a touchstone of John's life, guiding him to Penn State, first as a student and then as an educator and administrator… But only after a slightly wayward youth and stints as a firefighter, ship welder, drawbridge operator, and Navy shipman.

John came to State College in 1955 as an undergraduate student and made it his home for the next 7 decades. He earned his BS and PhD in meteorology, with a break along the way imposed by Penn State for some unnamed misbehavior. He met MaryAnne when he was a graduate student and she an undergraduate. They were married in December 1962 and celebrated their 60th anniversary in the fall of 2022 with many friends and family.

After earning his PhD, John Cahir joined the faculty at Penn State and never looked back. He became a leader in meteorology, with his research and teaching focused on synoptic (large-scale) meteorology and climatology. In an era when computers took up a good sized room and used paper punch cards for storing data, John was part of a pioneering group of scientists applying computer technology to analyze and model weather data. As a TV Forecaster on WPSX "State of the Weather, Shape of the World" John brought reliable forecasts to the public at a time when many TV station used actual clowns as 'weathermen'.

In his meteorology courses, John mentored students closely and developed teaching methods based on active student learning and collaboration. He earned awards for excellence in teaching and decades later students wrote to him of the difference he made in their education. He went on to co-author educational texts studied in meteorology programs around the country, utilizing exercises that engaged students as active participants in their learning. He and his colleagues cemented Penn State's reputation as having one of the premier meteorology programs in the world.

In 1980, John became the Associate Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. As an administrator, he brought his philosophies of collaboration, active learning, technology use, and mentorship to advance the welfare of undergraduates, grad students, and faculty alike. As the first in his family to have gone to college, John could relate to students who struggled in the demanding university environment and took a keen interest in supporting underrepresented groups. Stemming from his own prior misadventures, John also understood the importance of second chances, which he applied in his compassionate interactions with students and faculty.

After 13 years of serving EMS, John gained the opportunity to serve the broader Penn State community as Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies. He worked tirelessly to provide students the best education possible. He was passionate about promoting deep learning and led efforts to convert classrooms and labs to spaces conducive to active and collaborative learning. He advanced programs to support first generation and underrepresented college students, improve advising, and assist struggling students in completing their Penn State education.

Many colleagues noted John Cahir's significant impact on Penn State. He was praised for his "extraordinary ability to liberate the energy and talent of others, allowing them reach and extend their potential and discover their own leadership abilities". Upon his retirement, John was credited for being one of the most innovative leaders at Penn State, who promoted cooperation leading to many educational advancements benefiting students and faculty alike. He was noted for his endless energy efforts on behalf of equality, fairness, and student advocacy. He is remembered today by several generations of Penn Staters as a teacher and mentor who created an open and trusting environment through his caring attitude.

After his retirement in 2002, John Cahir continued his commitment to the community by serving on the Board of Penn College and the State College Borough Planning Commission. He also extended his involvement with meteorological education by working in a volunteer capacity advancing programs through the University Corporation for Atmospheric Sciences. And he found more time to indulge his great loves: golf, the Red Sox, his family, swimming, hiking, and travel. (Not necessarily in that order!)

John and MaryAnne funded two scholarships at Penn State. The first, established at the time of John's retirement, benefits students of Earth and Mineral Sciences demonstrating "exemplary academic performance or experience extenuating circumstances that may explain questionable academic records". Later, they contributed to the creation of the Project Cahir Endowment in memory of their son Bill who was killed in action serving with the Marines in Afghanistan in 2009. The initiative funds scholarships aiming to foster a sense of civic duty and commitment to alleviating poverty in local communities.

John will be greatly missed by his wife MaryAnne, his children Ellen, Kathryn, and Bart and children-in-law Patrick, René, and Andrea, and grandchildren Claire, Elizabeth, Caroline, Zoe, and Alexandra. He was pre-deceased by son Bill Cahir.

John's funeral mass will be held at Our Lady of Victory Church in State College on Saturday, June 15th at 9:00am. There will be a visitation at Koch Funeral Home on Friday, June 14th from 3:00-5:00pm.

His family would gratefully encourage contributions in his memory to be made to:

Project Cahir Corps Endowment at Penn State

(Select "Giving" > "Search for Funds" > Search "Cahir")


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