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John Cohoon, Public Relations Professional, 1943-2010

"He was our institutional memory. Every public relations challenge that we faced was one that he had already experienced."
Bob Calverley
January 11, 2010 —

John Cohoon, 66, who worked for USC as a public relations professional for 34 years, passed away January 9 in Pasadena. He had been diagnosed with cancer the previous November.

Cohoon 2
John Cohoon:  February 12, 1943 - January 9, 2010

"John was an eloquent and masterful speechwriter who cared deeply about USC and the Viterbi School," said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. " He was our institutional memory. Every public relations challenge that we faced was one that he had already experienced. We will miss him greatly."

Cohoon began working for USC in November 1975, the same year that he received his M.A. degree in journalism from the university. For two decades he managed a broad range of public relations activities at USC's Institute for Safety and Systems Management (ISSM) including communications, publications, marketing, advertising, events, volunteer activities and fund-raising campaigns.

In 1997 when ISSM was dissolved, Cohoon briefly worked as marketing manager at the Aviation Safety Program (now Aviation Safety and Security), before joining the External Relations Department at the School of Engineering.

There he served as a speechwriter for Viterbi School deans C.L. Max Nikias (now USC Provost) and Yannis C. Yortsos. He also created brochures, wrote news releases and edited and proofread most publications from External Relations. Although he suffered a serious stroke in 2003 that left him permanently disabled, he continued to work for the Viterbi School on a part-time basis.

Cohoon was proud of teaching himself html coding so he could help create the Viterbi School's first website. He was still updating it when he fell ill last November.

"He was the best proofreader I ever met and his loyalty to USC was extraordinary," said Cohoon's supervisor, Leslie DaCruz, executive director of communications and marketing at the Viterbi School. "The courage and determination with which he faced health problems in recent years was inspiring to all of us."

Cohoon also earned a B.A. degree in international business from Sophia University in Japan. From 1967 to 1972, he was stationed in Japan in an intelligence unit in the U.S. Army.

Cohoon is survived by a brother, Paul, of Brooklyn, NY.