We lost another great one: Dan Okun

I don't think I ever met him but Daniel Okun's name often came up whenever you heard about activism around the environment, peace, or civil rights. Okun passed away on Monday. He was 90.

He also has left us a wonderful legacy through the next generation of his family, many of whom are great activists in their own right. My thoughts go out to the whole Okun clan. The entire community truly benefited from Okun's long tenure in Chapel Hill and we fortunate to have him with as long as we did.



Dan was a passionate promoter of water re-use during the last several years. He often came to OWASA meetings and advocated for the installation of water re-use systems like the joint effort by OWASA & UNC that is now under construction.

Dan (and the rest of his clan) has always been out in front, demanding what was good and right.

It is Dan and others like him that have made this a special place to live.


Dan Okun initially became a role model to me when he spoke to my environmental sciences class in 1976 during my sr. year at NCSU. I served in the US Peace Corps after I graduated, then I was accepted to grad school at UNC in the world-famous program that Dan had initiated, the Dept. of Environmental Sciences and Engineering.

Dan became my grad school advisor, and together we came up with the idea for my Masters research -- a comparative analysis of pollutant loadings in the University Lake watershed -- the results of which he used ofen in subsequent years to successfully campaign for watershed protection in OWASA's two reservoirs -- University Lake and Cane Creek.

Dan helped me find gainful employment as I approached graduation, recommending me to international consulting firm CH2M HILL, which hired me in 1981 and where I still work after 26 years in a fascinating profession.

Amidst his great prominence in the profession of environmental engineering, where he was in such high demand and won about every award and citation that exists in that field, Dan Okun never forgot a single student. He frequently sought me out and button-holed me by phone or in person whenever he found out I was involved in a project that interested him... of which there were many. He was relentless!

A life-long hero and mentor who never let me down, his memorial service will be at Carol Woods on the afternoon of Friday Dec. 21... coincidentally, the same day of the week and time he used to faithfully participate in our Friday afternoon seminars in grad school.

I'll be there.

A true giant.

Brilliant man. Way ahead of his time with reclaimed water research.


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