Indiana University of Pennsylvania Trustee and former Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Glenn M. Cannon, 71, died Monday.
“Glenn Cannon spent a lifetime saving people from harm, starting in Indiana, and in Pittsburgh, across Pennsylvania, and across the nation,” IUP President Dr. Michael A. Driscoll said late Monday. “He was proud of his alma mater and we are proud of him. His experience and guidance were most helpful to me during the work that led to the establishment of the Indiana Area Collaborative Team.”
Cannon’s career took him to Pittsburgh; Harrisburg; Washington, D.C.; and Florida.
“He was a tremendous leader,” Indiana County Emergency Management Director Thomas Stutzman said. “It was a great pleasure to get to work with him.”
His career began at IUP.
“I have been in public safety now ever since I was in Indiana,” Cannon said in a 2011 Q&A with Gazette correspondent Mary Ann Slater. “I fought my first fire with the Indiana Volunteer Fire Association.”
He also found himself a place with Citizens’ Ambulance.
As he recalled in a 2017 interview with Gazette reporter Chauncey Ross, Cannon ran into Jerry Esposito, who would serve as Citizens’ manager and CEO until his retirement in 1992, and Tom Streams, later Indiana County’s long-time coroner, at the scene of an accident outside his fraternity house.
“I happened to be on the scene where a guy had some kind of a cardiac episode,” Cannon said. “He had driven his car into a tree and I was right there.”
He relied on his YMCA lifeguard training to revive the driver.
“I laid him down on the front seat,” Cannon said. “He had a heartbeat but he wasn’t breathing. So I did five or six breaths and he started to gasp and breathe. And the ambulance came, with Tom and Jerry. And they said it was rare to see somebody doing something like this on the street.”
It was the start of something that helped pay for Cannon’s education and more, as he recalled in the 2011 Q&AA.
“Jerry Esposito was a pioneer in modern emergency medical services,” Cannon said. “As a result of his contacts, I ran into a physician from Pittsburgh named Peter Safer (who) was the father of (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). He developed CPR when he was at Johns Hopkins University. He had this idea that you could take hospital-type medical care to people in the field rather than just rushing people to hospitals. You could start medical care 30, 45, 60 minutes earlier.”
Cannon later served as founding director of Pittsburgh’s Emergency Medical Services and that city’s public safety director. In October 1996 he was named the first manager and chief operating officer of Allegheny County under that county’s home-rule charter that also replaced a county board of commissioners with an elected county executive and council.
Then, President George W. Bush chose him to serve as director of Disaster Operations for the Department of Homeland Security following Hurricane Katrina.
After that, Cannon was PEMA director from 2011 to 2015.
“Mr. Cannon led a life that was dedicated to public service and throughout his distinguished career made significant contributions to the emergency management profession,” according to a statement issued by PEMA spokeswoman Ruth A. Miller. “During his tenure as the PEMA director, he led the commonwealth’s response and initial recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, one of the largest disasters to effect the state within the last decade.”
Cannon was named as an IUP trustee by then-Gov. Tom Corbett in 2013.
“Mr. Cannon has left a lasting legacy on many levels,” said state Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana. “While he was best known for his landmark impact on the delivery of emergency services, he was also a devoted member of the IUP Council of Trustees. He served his alma mater with distinction and his leadership will be sorely missed.”
I-ACT was formed in July 2014 with a focus on minimizing, countering and responding to disruptive gatherings and behaviors in the community, in reaction to an unauthorized activity that came to be known as the IUPatty’s weekends.
“Glenn had tasked his staff as well as himself to come in and do an after-action report,” Stutzman said. “(And to) look at what are better ways to respond to or to mitigate its happening in the future.”
Stutzman said Cannon’s recommendations led to formation of a team that involved people from many walks of Indiana County life, such as landlords and the Indiana-White Township business community.
“All that was part of that original report,” Stutzman said. “Because of his roots here in Indiana County it became a sort of a personal thing for him. He was able to help us identify how can we fix this problem.”
I-ACT was one of the innovations in which Cannon was involved that would affect Indiana County. Another drew on his time as Florida State fire marshal and consultant to Florida officials in their development of a statewide communications system.
It was ESINet, or Emergency Services Information Network, whose roots include the coincidental efforts in Indiana and Armstrong counties to develop emergency radio networks, tied in turn to Westmoreland County, and beyond.
“He saw that as a bigger project, not just radio but business telephone, 911 calling, back up systems, all of which we have today,” Stutzman said. “He knew that within the Region 13 counties the funding existed to build the base.”
Region 13 today covers Indiana, Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset, Venango and Westmoreland counties as well as the City of Pittsburgh as a separate entity. Stutzman said it eventually will tie in to a network covering Bedford, Blair, Fulton and Huntingdon counties.
“All of this was Glenn’s hope when he was at PEMA, that it would be interconnected to make one statewide network,” Stutzman said.
In addition to his IUP diploma, Cannon earned a master’s degree in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University and a law degree from Duquesne University. In 2010 he received an honorary doctor of laws degree and was named as a Distinguished Alumnus by IUP.
Cannon also was active in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish-Catholic fraternal organization, where he served as state treasurer at the time of his death.
In May Cannon was re-elected as secretary of the IUP Council of Trustees for the 2019-20 academic year.
“I speak for the entire IUP community in saying that we are deeply saddened by Glenn’s passing,” Driscoll said. “And we send our deepest sympathy to his wife and alumna Cathie and to his entire family.
Cannon also is survived by two sons and three grandchildren.
McCabe Brothers Inc. Funeral Home in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood is handling arrangements. A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled Saturday at 10 a.m. at Sacred Hearth Church in Shadyside.