September 8, 2015

Remembering Andy Kohut

Andrew KohutToday, we grieve the loss of our founder, mentor and bedrock, Andrew Kohut, who led Pew Research Center from 2004 until 2012 and previously led Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. He passed away this morning.

For those who knew Andy personally, professionally or even only through his media appearances, the thought that this day could come is unimaginable. Andy’s force of will was incomparable, and he went into tackling his leukemia with the same drive, attention to detail and optimism that he brought to everything else in his life. To us, Andy was indestructible, which makes his loss inconceivable.

But Andy will remain with us because of the impact his work will continue to have on the world. We at Pew Research Center live this every day, in an organization whose principles, methods and approach to doing research were forged by his leadership. He taught us the importance of innovation, relevance, rigor, objectivity, humility, and ultimately, getting it right. Andy’s values and mission drive the center, and we continue to strive to live up to the standard he set.

I worked side by side with Andy for more than 15 years, and he always brought out the best in me – sometimes with a guiding hand, and sometimes with a swift kick. I watched how his judgment, instincts and unwillingness to ever settle for second-best drove Pew Research Center to be what it is today, and I thank him for that.

Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts, our parent organization, shares our grief and admiration: “It has been more than 20 years since Andy and I began working together to create the Pew Research Center. In the decades since, he has been an inspiration, a mentor, a friend and a wonderful colleague. The board of directors of The Pew Charitable Trusts join me in mourning his loss, but we are also grateful for his remarkable contribution to advancing the founders’ credo: Tell the truth and trust the people.”

Andy’s importance reaches far beyond Pew Research Center, as he was a standard-setter and innovator for the entire survey research community. I believe the key to Andy’s success was rooted in his fundamental respect for people. Public opinion was something precious to Andy. He believed that people trust us with their views, and that it’s our obligation to gather them reliably and respectfully, and to analyze and assess what people tell us with the utmost care. In an era when many numbers, including polling, have become increasingly automated and commodified, Andy always reminded us that the “public” in public opinion is not an indiscriminate force. It is people.

We will miss Andy greatly, but his tremendous legacy will live on with us in the years to come.

Please feel free to share your memories and appreciations in the comments.

  1. Photo of Michael Dimock

    is the president of Pew Research Center.