Respondent
Cowan, Barton Z.
Interview Date
January 6, 1998
Abstract
Respondent lawyer, born 1934.
[T1S1] Respondent provides background information; parents Milton and Clara Cowan; mother born in Belarus, father born in Cleveland, Ohio; gives name of brother. Respondent married to Teri Anne Thomas, born in Seattle, Washington; three daughters; describes grandparents: born in Europe, their immigration to America: 1890's, notes grandparents met and married in Cleveland, Ohio; provides family genealogy. Respondent comments on father's profession in Cleveland: taught chemistry for 42 years; died 1990 at age 87; mother mathematics teacher; now residing in assisted living facility. Respondent describes early years in Cleveland Heights, Ohio; attended Fairfax Elementary school, played in band and orchestra; touches on religious life: parents Reform, paternal grandparents, Orthodox, maternal grandparents, Conservative; attended holiday services with grandparents: one day in Orthodox synagogue, one day in Conservative synagogue; attended Hebrew school 7 days a week; family musical: mother played piano, Respondent played trumpet. Respondent describes religious observances and ritual customs at family events: mother used 2 sets of dishes for Passover; reflects on Bar Mitzvah: 1947, had special training, received trumpet as gift from parents; comments on influence of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver and Rabbi Barnett Brickner.
[T1S2] Respondent influenced in Pittsburgh by Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof and Rabbi Walter Jacob; reflects on meeting wife, Teri Anne Thomas: gives detailed description of her family and extended family. Respondent comments on paternal relatives; continues discussion on growing up years: parents strong believers in education, felt "no substitute for excellence, anything short of that not acceptable"; father founding member of teachers union in Cleveland.
[T2S3] Respondent recalls parents interest in music and reading; mother strict disciplinarian at home and in school; notes graduation from high school, 1951; graduation from University of Michigan, 1955: degree in liberal arts; describes school and campus; tuition $90.00 semester; participation in marching band; reflects on memories: good time to be in school, majored in economics, served as 2<sup>nd</sup> Lieutenant in ROTC. Respondent comments on acceptance at Harvard Law School: conservative school and difficult courses; economics best course; received honors with distinction.
[T2S4] Respondent adds to discussion of Harvard Law School: member of Alpha Phi Omega, service fraternity; graduation, 1958: outstanding faculty and student body, continues friendships with several fraternity brothers; gives names of prominent classmates. Respondent comments on law firms in Pittsburgh. in 1960s: discrimination against Jews; touches on attitudes today, more liberal; recalls joining United States Air Force: 1958, three year commitment; entered as judge advocate, sent to Geiger Field, Spokane, Washington: defense prosecutor, mentions several cases.
[T3S5] Respondent elaborates on cases tried; worked with several lawyers; describes involvement with Reform synagogue in Spokane: taught Sunday school: Reform Jewish History; reflects on trip to Seattle to meet cousin of friends; describes visit and meeting wife, their marriage in 1961; notes wife from family dated back to beginning of Jewish community; grandfather founder of first Conservative synagogue.
[T3S6] Respondent repeats information on wife's family; recalls conversation with his mother: did not believe that Thomas was a Jewish name; recalls honeymoon in Canada, then second honeymoon after ending service. Respondent comments on arrival in Pittsburgh and move into apartment on 5<sup>th</sup> Avenue; joined Rodef Shalom Temple Junior Congregation: conducted holiday service in Temple and Syria Mosque; created social life through Temple; prepared to take Bar examination; discusses diversity of cases at that time. Respondent reflects on joining Eckert Seamans Cherin and Mellott, LLC, 1961: fourteen attorneys, at present, 240 lawyers in various cities; comments of first business trip to Philadelphia: contract file for small client: Shippingport Nuclear Power, dispute over United States Navy; Westinghouse and Alcoa major clients; recalls in house counsel very small then, almost everything farmed out; describes senior partners: Eckert and Seamans, different personalities.
[T4S7] Respondent recalls Pennsylvania Bar Exam: passed first in State, 1962; planned to be a litigator, found contract negotiations and corporate work more appealing. Respondent begins discussion of involvement with nuclear law, 1965: asked to attend meeting, Westinghouse in contract dispute revolving around nuclear plant; chaired by Ted Stern, later became vice-president of Westinghouse; notes power plant sales strong in USA: 1960-1973; Westinghouse leader in field. Respondent describes becoming involved in hearing concerning nuclear plants, lasted two years, describes people at meeting and their ages; one half under thirty; at age 37, Respondent second oldest; gives statistics on number of nuclear reactors sold; touches on licensing of reactors.
[T4S8] Respondent continues discussion on licensing process and his participation: 1986; notes Chernobyl accident in USSR occurred at time of hearing; explains people in USA worked on design; mentions Chernobyl accident unlikely to happen in USA. Respondent discusses China: will build 50 new reactors in next 10 years; notes Westinghouse still first rate in technology today; explains Three Mile Island demonstrated safety of nuclear plants: automatic shut down; believes safety culture is of utmost concern. Respondent comments on demise of Westinghouse; gives reasons: lost research and development, cutbacks, took risks, too much emphasis on short term profit vs. long term development, CEO's chosen at a late age and retired early, need longer sweep of time, no first rate management at top.
[T5S9] Respondent elaborates on joining Rodef Shalom Temple, 1961: Junior Congregation; served as president, 1966-1967, comments on American Jewish Committee, Pittsburgh Chapter: president 1990-1993, Life Trustee; reflects on Hebrew Institute of Pittsburgh: president, 1987-1991: period of transition; Hebrew Institute struggling, gives reasons and statistics on enrollment; mentions other Jewish learning institutions in Pittsburgh and effect of Jewish All Day Schools: positive. Respondent begins discussion of merger of Hebrew Institute, Community Day School, School of Advanced Jewish Studies and purchase of former church on Beechwood Boulevard; repeats importance and necessity for Jewish All Day Schools. Respondent adds to information on Rodef Shalom Temple: becoming more traditional, changes difficult, most dramatic: wearing talit (prayer shawl) and kipa (head covering).
[T5S10] Respondent discusses policy changes on mixed marriages: requirements and conditions; describes changes in holiday services; comments on most fulfilling role at Rodef Shalom Temple: revamping education; mentions invitation to serve on board of overseers of Hebrew Union College, 1987-present; board of governors of Hebrew Union College, 1995-present. Respondent lists additional local and national affiliations; member of International Nuclear Law Association; mentions children and granddaughter; notes goal for Rodef Shalom Temple: to have professional librarian and archivist for library in conjunction with Historical Society and University of Pittsburgh.
Subjects
Cleveland (Ohio); Eckert Seamans Cherin And Mellott, Llc; Harvard Law School; Hebrew Institute of Pittsburgh; Hebrew Union College; Jews--Education; Lawyers; Law; Nuclear energy--Law and legislation; Nuclear energy; Synagogues; Rodef Shalom Congregation (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company
Birth Date
1934
City
Cleveland, OH
Profession
Lawyer
Work
Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC
Residence
Pittsburgh; Cleveland
Length (hours)
5
Interviewer1
Schwartz, Marcie
Interviewer2
Rubinstein, Judy
Indexer
Berger, Betty
Collateral Materials
Box 100 FF 54
Identifier
ais196440.086
Rights
All rights reserved. University of Pittsburgh