40 Under 40: 2015

These 40 honorees have been chosen on the scope and basis of professional and personal accomplishments as well as their commitment to and overall impact on the Pittsburgh region.



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PHOTOS BY TIMOTHY COX | SHOT AT SEN. JOHN HEINZ HISTORY CENTER | HAIR/MAKEUP BY TRAVIS KLINGLER​

“The List,” said writer Umberto Eco, “is the origin of culture … what does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible.”

We fall into the practice of narrowing things to a smaller universe: the 50 wealthiest, the 20 most beautiful, the 10 most wanted. The seemingly infinite talent crawling the hills and office towers of western Pennsylvania fits many categories. One of them is our annual assessment of the 40 Under 40 — men and women who have not yet reached midlife but have accomplished singular things that bode well for the future, both theirs and the region’s.

    

    

Consider the inaugural class for this feature. In 1999, Dawn Keezer was a young upstart who had taken the Pittsburgh Film Office to a new threshold, reeling in major film productions for the city and region. Today, she’s on the West Coast, pushing those productions in our direction. The list of films she has brought here is nearing 100. She in turn, made yet another list in September: Pittsburgh Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful People.

“I just made it. I’m No. 45,” she says with a laugh.

    

    

On the East Coast, Andy Newman, another member of the first 40 Under 40 class, is writing under freelance contract for The New York Times. Seventeen years ago, he was editing Pittsburgh City Paper and creating Film Kitchen, a forum showcasing locally produced movies. A few months ago, he, too, made another list: the esteemed newspaper’s most-emailed feature of the day — a story about women who dye their armpit hair in designer colors. 

    

    

The earlier lists of 40 Under 40 have a singular feel to them. Government was heavily represented, as was industry. The following pages will offer yet another catalogue of transition. This year, the nonprofit sector and charitable endeavors co-mingle with career accomplishments and new worldviews befitting a new Pittsburgh. Winners have been chosen on the scope and basis of professional and personal accomplishments as well as their commitment to and overall impact on the region. As ever, the Pittsburgh character remains. Forty years from now, we believe that will still be true.

Meet this year’s 40 Under 40:
 


 

Jake Voelker   [31]
President, Voelker Contracting, LLC; Principal, Voodoo Brewing; Founder, Pa Brew Tours


After earning two Bronze Stars while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jake Voelker is doing the Lord’s work: He’s making beer. Voelker’s dream was, quite literally, Voodoo. That’s the name of the brewing company he helps to run, based in Meadville with a recently opened branch in Homestead. The craft brew has been a hit, and the brewing industry has allowed him entrée to help returning veterans find a fit in the civilian world. He participates in veteran-focused podcasts, and they even held some at the Homestead pub. Last May, Voelker co-chaired the Furnace Bash, a beer festival with proceeds going to the Mario Lemieux Foundation.  You’d be surprised to know ... Gardening is probably my biggest hobby. I come off like a tough guy, but what I really want to do is water my plants and cook all day while listening to my favorite podcasts as my cats hang out with me in the kitchen.

 

Marita Garrett   [29]
Councilwoman, Wilkinsburg Borough;
CEO, Admintrinsic

At 29, Marita Garrett is a CEO of a small-business support company, the youngest member of Wilkinsburg council and a member of five community boards. To Kathy Risko, she is all that and more. Risko tells of the time Garrett attended a board meeting for CONNECT, the University of Pittsburgh-based intergovernmental cooperation board for which Risko is executive director. Garrett noticed that Risko seemed stressed. That’s when Risko told her board that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. After the meeting, Garrett took her aside and said, “You don’t know this, but I’m a cancer survivor.” She spent the next moments telling Risko what to expect and how to fight. “She was just one of these wonderful people,” Risko says. The moment that changed my life ... When one of my best friends was killed in an auto accident at the age of 21. Earlier that year, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 20 … yet I am still here, and she is not. That reaffirmed that tomorrow truly is not promised to anyone, and there is absolutely no time to sweat the small things in life.
 

Majestic Lane   [39]
Director of External Relations & Member Engagement, Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group


A former staff assistant to retired state Sen. Jim Ferlo, Majestic Lane says he’s been a community organizer since 10th grade — and in the ensuing two decades, he’s stepped up his game. As former director of community engagement and strategy for Pittsburgh A+ Schools, an advocacy group that seeks educational equity, Lane also co-founded Juice Up 412, a social group seeking to expand health and wellness care to underserved communities. He also was a founder of GMTK Changemakers, which promoted education, economics and innovation in places such as Homewood, Larimer, Wilkinsburg and the Hill District. And on most Mondays, he helps to guide a meetup of students, storytellers, community leaders and entrepreneurs as part of yet another group, unstuckpittsburgh.com. My big dream or ambition is … a Puff Daddy-like birthday celebration in Morocco.

 

Olivia Benson   [30]
Program Manager, The Efficiency Network


Politics and public policy often find listeners hitting the snooze button. Olivia Benson is out to change that. With a trio of degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, Point Park University and the University of Pennsylvania, Benson, 30, can be heard explaining the intricacies of government and campaigns on TV, radio — just about anywhere an explanation is called for. Her education came from college, but her real-life knowledge came from the trenches. She was press secretary for Dan Onorato’s campaign for governor, worked in the press office of former U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire and was communications director for Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s campaign in 2011. Today, she works at The Efficiency Network, which coordinates energy-saving projects with companies and government entities, helping to shape policy for a new century. Hardly anyone knows ... I was a college cheerleader. Go Tartans!

 

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