40 Under 40: 2013
Our honorees help the city to become even more innovative, caring and socially conscious.
(page 5 of 5)
Michael Boyd 
Assistant Professor of Music, Chatham University; Co-Founder, Share the Road East; Member, Wilkins Township Board of Commissioners
Michael Boyd bikes most places, including to and from his job. He was instrumental in positioning Chatham as a frontrunner — and award-winner — among the region’s bike-friendly institutions. In 2009, he approached the university about adopting the federal tax credit for bike commuters; the credit was available a year later. While involved with Chatham’s Climate Committee as chairman of the Bicycle Work Group, he has supported plans to open an on-campus bike shop and implement a rental program. A biker’s commute may begin outside Pittsburgh proper, so Boyd took to his own neighborhood of Wilkins Township because he noticed that “a lot of the bicycle infrastructure ends when you hit the city limits of Pittsburgh.” In 2011, he established Share the Road East to promote bicycle awareness in eastern suburban municipalities. He also is a member of the board of commissioners in Wilkins Township, where he’s become part of social changes — hosting a composting seminar, teaching yoga, setting up a weekly farmers market and, naturally, increasing the number of bike racks.
Keith Caldwell 
Director, Bachelor of Arts in Social Work Program, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work
Keith Caldwell, board member of Just Harvest, Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise and Advancing Academics, takes to heart Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg’s notion that Pittsburgh is our campus. “For a city,” Caldwell says, “[Pittsburgh] really still has a human element: a lot of connection, a lot of community, a lot of opportunity to participate.” In his social work classrooms, he requires students to engage in service projects, attend legislative meetings or interview citizen leaders. In class, he presents the dilemma of a neighborhood situated next to a ravine, into which residents keep falling. Residents of the neighborhood debate whether they should invest in a fence to prevent people from falling or an ambulance to save them when they do. “Are social workers the fence or the ambulance?” asks Caldwell. “The right answer is, we’re both.” People will always fall, and social workers will be there to respond. People like Caldwell are also there to build better fences, improve our city’s proactive and preventative measures, and impart that philosophy to the next generation.
Tamara Dubowitz 
Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Corp.
In 1998, Tamara Dubowitz co-founded what is now called The Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative; the initial objective was to plant vegetable gardens in public schools and influence student-run after-school stores to sell healthy snacks. It was satisfying to an extent, but Dubowitz says she wanted to learn how to use data to document its impact. Now, she works as a senior policy researcher with the RAND Corp. because “at the end of the day, I think that the voice of advocacy can only be as strong as the objective evidence and analysis that backs it up.” She’s working on “PHRESH: Pittsburgh Hill/Homewood Research on Eating, Shopping and Health,” a five-year study of the impact of the Hill District’s new grocery store, the area’s first in 30 years. Even as her focus has shifted to research, Dubowitz has not forgotten the people her research assists. In the short and long term, she says, “we have a commitment to making sure this research can directly contribute to neighborhoods we’re working in.”
Vasso Paliouras 
Founder, Chairwoman and Executive Director, Lending Hearts
When Vasso Paliouras’ 17-year-old sister entered treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Paliouras saw firsthand how cancer affects children and families. “A lot of times when a family is going through any sort of daunting circumstance, you need a break,” Paliouras says. “You need to get out and enjoy yourself, and maybe you just need someone to tell you: ‘Hey, this is where we’re going — you want to come?’” In 2011, she established Lending Hearts, an organization that creates recreational and educational opportunities for children with cancer and their families. Kids may watch a broadcast of a Pittsburgh Penguins game with the Pens’ mascot, Iceburgh, and fluffy penguins from the National Aviary. “Every experience that we offer has to be something out of the ordinary,” says Paliouras. “There has to be something added, something special, something educational that they would never have had the opportunity to experience before.” Through Lending Hearts, she’s creating a new community that’s not about illness; instead, it’s about life and the future — and sharing in one-of-a-kind experiences.
Leigh Halverson 
Special Assistant to the President and CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation
Though Leigh Halverson didn’t grow up here, she says she’s in love with Pittsburgh. This is partly because she views the metropolis as the perfect place for her to work at a local level to enact global change. “[Collectively, the city is] completely open to new ideas and to young people,” she says. “As a result, I’m able to make an impact.” She’s chairwoman of the board for the Environmental Charter School and has been working for The Pittsburgh Foundation for five years — almost as long as she’s been in Pittsburgh. Due to her involvement with the first Day of Giving in 2009, Halverson met with more than 800 nonprofits to create online profiles that would qualify them for inclusion. After attending the 2011 One Young World Summit in Zurich as one of 30 Pittsburgh delegates, she helped host the 2012 summit here, bringing major delegates to Pittsburgh; she restructured the gathering to include 20 breakout groups throughout the city rather than in a conference room. In addition, she organized 101 home dinners for students and delegates to connect with local community members. Halverson says Pittsburgh is a global leader, but more than that, “this is a place where I really feel that my contribution is valued.”
Benjamin R. Campbell 
Assistant Professor of Engineering, Robert Morris University
The Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences, a summer program for talented high-schoolers who excel in math and science, changed Ben Campbell’s life — and not just when he attended the program in 1997 as a 17-year-old. It was instrumental in his decision to pursue science, and he chose to become an educator after returning to the program as a teaching assistant every summer while he attended college. What makes it so special? It doesn’t give grades or credits; students “just want to learn for the sake of being curious, to have a broader mind, to understand how things work,” he says. After graduating from college, though, Campbell returned to those students for four more years as a teacher — until 2009, when the program was axed due to budget cuts. He rallied alumni and helped initiate a nonprofit to raise funds and worked to bring back the program. This year, the Pennsylvania Governor’s School reopened, with enough funding for two years. Campbell still aims to ensure its future. He currently works to expand Robert Morris’ newly formed biomedical engineering program through efforts including the creation of an engineering club.
Erin C. Molchany 
Member, Pennsylvania House of Representatives - 22nd District
State Rep. Erin Molchany first ran for public office in 2005 when she was 27. She knocked on 5,000 doors while running for Pittsburgh City Council but lost her first race. That’s not to say it discouraged her — quite the opposite. She learned enough to win in her next campaign for the House of Representatives in 2012; she’s currently the only woman representing Allegheny County in Harrisburg — and she’s a young one at that. While working at Coro Center for Civic Leadership and Planned Parenthood, she discovered her passion for politics. “You realize how much government has an impact on people’s lives on a daily basis,” she says. Before holding her elected position, Molchany was the executive director of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project. As a representative, she focuses on issues of transportation, education and equality — matters she first learned about in her nonprofit work, which allowed her to think critically. Molchany says her belief in the importance of politics began long before then, when she turned 18 and started to vote. “It’s a big responsibility. It’s important, and it’s a value that my family definitely held,” she says. “We vote.”
Phil Koch 
National Executive Director, MGR Youth Empowerment
In 2005, Phil Koch established the Pittsburgh chapter of MGR Youth Empowerment, which operates in five U.S. cities, “to empower youth in the areas of arts, health and environment to make changes to their communities and to their own lives.” At the time, he was teaching seventh-grade science, and he says he was troubled by limitations in the classroom. “[I was not able] to spend time addressing the social and emotional needs of students [and did not have] time to focus on youth development because so much time was spent focusing on academics.” MGR Youth Empowerment is distinct in that it’s not just about serving youth ages 12-18; it also helps them find ways to make change on their own. This past summer, during the sixth annual Youth Peace Rally, held at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, downtown, more than 400 kids congregated to consider the impact of violence in their community and envision the change they would like to see. “Youth are powerful in their own right,” says Koch, who says he tries “to help in providing them knowledge that they need, skills that they need, and to open the doors to opportunities to help them become successful and help them to transform their own communities.”
About the Photoshoot: Seeing Purple
Gabriel Sierra’s deceptively simple project for the 2013 Carnegie International — repainting the walls of the monumental Hall of Architecture rich purple and adding discrete sculptural elements — is a conceptual and witty approach to the history of this storied space. Andrew Carnegie established the Hall of Architecture in 1907 to bring likenesses of European masterworks to the people of western Pennsylvania. “If they cannot go to the objects which allure people abroad,” he stated in 1895, “we shall do our best to bring the rarest of those objects to them at home.”
The hall contains 150 individual plaster casts of sculptures and monuments from all over the world and over centuries. Sierra creates sculptural interruptions within the coherence of built environments, examining the psychic condition they produce, or, as he puts it, “when physical qualities become an atmosphere.” By painting the receding surfaces of the Hall of Architecture purple (as opposed to its previous muted sage green), Sierra articulates the forms and patina of the casts and coaxes out their complex relationships to architecture, representation, 19th-century globalization, sculpture-making, industrialized production, original and copy. The result is surreal, perceptually funky and formally elegant and precise.