He served as Executive Director of the Virginia Environmental Endowment, a grant making foundation, since its founding in 1977 until his retirement in June 2013. Prior to that, he served as Executive Director and Chairman of Virginia's Council on the Environment. Earlier, as a Captain in the United States Air Force, Jerry was Program Manager for advanced research and development at the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratory, the U. S. Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has also taught environmental management at the Duke University School of the Environment, and lectured at the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, among others.
- Originated the Robert R. Merhige Jr. Environmental History Archives at the Virginia Historical Society;
- Established the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia, the first university-based alternative dispute resolution for complex environmental disputes and public policy dialogues in the country
- Initiated a unique Business-Conservation Partnership in Virginia called VirginiaForever
- Initiated an annual conference (“Environment Virginia”) at Virginia Military Institute among business, governmental, and nonprofit environmental leaders, where annually over 700 people (40% from business) come together to learn and discuss environmental conservation, natural resources, and regulatory issues
- Built an environmental conservation nonprofit community in Virginia by providing guidance and initial funding for numerous nonprofits, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the James River Association, the Nature Conservancy, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Elizabeth River Project, and Friends of the Rappahannock, among others
- Promoted and funded applied scientific research to conserve the commercially important fisheries of the Chesapeake Bay, specifically helping to develop a science-based policy for managing menhaden, rockfish, crabs and oysters
- In 2004 the University of Virginia established The Gerald P. McCarthy Award for leadership in Environmental Conflict Resolution in his honor
He also did graduate studies in public science policy administration at the University of New Mexico.