Pitt: A Special Place in Richey’s Legal Career

Issue Date: 
June 15, 2015

When Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Legal Officer P. Jerome Richey says he’s had a good run at Pitt, he really means “run.” He joined Pitt’s cross-country and track teams in 1967 and, as an athlete, was lauded. Richey was an NCAA All-American, a sub-four-minute miler, a member of a world-record-holding distance medley relay team, and a two-time NCAA champion. Richey was presented the 1971 Panther Award for outstanding athletic achievement. His name is carved in the stone Varsity Walk between Heinz Chapel and the Cathedral of Learning.

P. Jerome Richey

Richey, who will retire in July, recalls that he also found success in the classroom. “One of the good things about coming here was that my interests broadened,” he says. “I became much more intrigued with my education.” He graduated with a degree in philosophy from what is now the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, earned his law degree with honors from Pitt’s School of Law in 1974, and went on to practice law. 

As a partner in Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, Richey focused on commercial litigation and labor and employment issues. He was a member of the firm’s executive team, handling ethics and acting as in-house counselor. “Invariably, I was in the middle of problems, and I like that spot,” he says.

 After 30 years at Buchanan Ingersoll, Richey was recruited to join CONSOL Energy, where he began as general counsel and eventually served as executive vice president and chief legal officer. “I was excited about having responsibility for a law department in a very major, publicly traded company,” he says. Major changes were happening at CONSOL  during the eight years Richey spent there, including the transformation of the gas business. 

As Richey was retiring from CONSOL, Pitt’s then-Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg asked him to step in as general counsel at Pitt for the transition period leading to a new chancellor. “I thought this was another great opportunity,” Richey says. “What a great way to end my career, and return to an institution that had been so important to me as a young person. Not only did I get a great undergraduate degree and a great law degree, but, trumping all of that, I met my wife here. It’s hard to beat that.”

“I first met Jerry Richey 50 years ago this summer, when I moved to Pittsburgh, enrolled in North Allegheny High School, and became a marginal contributor to the undefeated cross country team that he led to a state championship,” says Nordenberg. “Jerry was one of the best high school distance runners in the country, and after choosing to compete at Pitt, he became the best distance runner in the history of our University. 

“However, even in our teenage years, what impressed me most about Jerry were his strong character, high principles, and welcoming personality. Because we shared a profession and lived in the same city, I was able to watch Jerry build an outstanding career as a lawyer. Given his distinguished record, when I was able to persuade Jerry to become our general counsel, that was a true victory for Pitt. It meant a lot to me that Jerry also considered the chance to return to his alma mater as its chief lawyer to be a big win for him.”

Richey is a 2013 recipient of the University of Pittsburgh 225th Anniversary Medallion, a 2009 Pitt School of Law Distinguished Alumni, and a 1997 Awardee of Distinction, Pitt’s Varsity Letter Club. His wife Cindy (A&S ’71, SIS ’72G) has major kudos of her own. Director of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, she was the 2013 recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children’s Distinguished Service Award, a 2012 Legacy Laureate at Pitt, the 2011 chair of the prestigious Newbery Award Committee, and the recipient of the 2006 New York Times Librarian Award.

Richey and his wife have two grown sons. They hope to travel, including to San Francisco where their first grandson, now 18 months old, resides. Richey also wants to help his younger son begin a sports information business.

“I have loved working here. The people are great. They’re so smart. I totally enjoyed working for Mark Nordenberg and Pat Gallagher,” Richey says. “The values of the institution are just terrific. And the idea of being focused on educating people is a wonderful thing to be a part of.”