The 2013 Pension 40: Susan Urahn

Susan Urahn
Executive Vice President
Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pew Charitable Trusts was established in 1948 as an anonymous grant-making group aimed at solving the nation’s biggest problems. Until recently, the Philadelphia-based nonprofit was best known for funding NPR. But since 2007, Pew has given increasing attention to pension reform, stirring up controversy along the way. In 2010, Susan Urahn, its executive vice president for state-based initiatives, oversaw a policy paper titled “The Trillion Dollar Gap: Underfunded State Retirement Systems and the Road to Reform.” The paper described a dire U.S. public pension landscape and proposed fixes including raising the retirement age and improving investment oversight. Since then Pew, often working with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (No. 3), has advised states and municipalities grappling with public pension reform. Pew was heavily engaged in Kentucky’s 2013 pension overhaul, pushing for the switch to a so-called cash balance plan. Although labor unions disputed Pew’s data, Kentucky lawmakers voted to implement the Pew-endorsed model. Urahn launched a career in policy research after earning a doctorate in education policy and administration from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. When she joined Pew as a program officer in its planning and evaluation department in 1994, she had more than a decade of experience with the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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