40 Under 40: 2016

Meet our 2016 class of 40 Pittsburghers Under 40 who are changing our region – and the world – for the better.



(page 7 of 11)


 

Margaret (Meg) Gleason   [39]
Partner, Jones Day


Meg Gleason is a multitasker.

In the space of 16 months, she married, made partner at the Jones Day law firm, helped to win one of the largest commercial verdicts in the history of Allegheny County and gave birth to her first child.

That’s not counting her pro bono work for the indigent, the law class she taught at Imani Academy in Homewood and her distance running. She once ran a sub-3-hour marathon.

A native of Louisville, Ky., she went on to be a varsity cross-country athlete in high school, college and later at Oxford University where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. In addition to her work as a litigation attorney for Jones Day — she’s also been recognized by the Super Lawyers rating service — Gleason serves on the board of Sisters Place Inc., a family-service agency that helps young mothers to complete their educations and begin careers.  

My favorite Pittsburgh thing is ... The view of the city from the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
 

Kristine Irwin   [31]
Human Resources Recruitment Specialist, Pittsburgh Mercy


Almost 12 years ago, Kristine Irwin was dumped on a road by the man who sexually assaulted her on the way to a party. She refused to recede into victimhood.

Instead, she has become an advocate for rape survivors and a persistent warning on campuses about the need to confront and eradicate a scourge at once shocking and routine because of its persistence. She describes her recovery: the horror, violation and struggle to find herself by finding new identities.

She went to seven Lady Gaga concerts in 18 months, each time in costume. She founded Voices of Hope to reach out to anyone who has survived assault.

In the intervening years, she has built a professional career as a talent-acquisition specialist, married and given birth to a son. Instead of “moving on” she has moved the discussion of a terrible subject out of the shadows and into the light, the better for rape survivors to find their own paths forward.

You’d be surprised to know ... I got to meet Britney Spears at a concert. Ever since I was 10 or 11 I was a big fan. You could buy backstage passes. [I took] some savings I’d put away and decided to use that to meet her.
 

Aster Teclay   [28]
Senior Project Manager, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh


Turning public-housing complexes into communities is a daunting task, but Aster Teclay helped to redevelop the once-tough stretch known as Addison Terrace in the Hill District.

Today, with mulched flower beds, clear streets and a burst of optimism, the place is a shining example of what can be accomplished.

The daughter of Eritrean war refugees, Teclay worked her way through Pitt with a dual major in political science and business. She earned an MBA in sports, arts and entertainment management from Point Park in 2014 and currently is pursuing a master’s degree in public management from CMU.

Serving at the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, she became its primary liaison with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and analyzes legislation and crafts policies to improve housing programs, on which more than 20,000 families in the city rely for rent assistance.

You’d be surprised to know ... One of the things I did to overcome being overwhelmed by large projects is take an improv class. I was secretly freaking out, but I had a great time. A lot of people when they meet me don’t think I have that funny, goofy side until they get to know me.
 

Allison Saras   [32]
Charitable Relationship Manager, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering


When Allison Saras left Pittsburgh for Philadelphia in 2002 to attend college at Penn State University and later graduate school at Villanova University, where she also worked in the university’s development office, an item advanced to the top of the University of Pittsburgh’s to-do list: get her back here.

By 2010 she was back in the ’Burgh. A record-setting fundraiser for the schools she serves, Saras has climbed the academic ladder, from Pitt’s School of Law to its Swanson School of Engineering, where she now holds the post of director of development.

Her job is to locate donors in the $100,000 range and beyond. She tells friends she someday might like to be a college president.

Saras doesn’t limit her good deeds to work hours. She also has helped with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the American Red Cross, the Sen. John Heinz History Center, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the One Young World Summit held in Pittsburgh in 2012.  

The biggest thing I ever had to overcome ... Finishing my doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh while working full-time. It was well worth it and one of my biggest accomplishments, but it was very challenging.
 

The Rev. Paul Abernathy   [37]
Director, FOCUS Pittsburgh; CEO FOCUS Pittsburgh Free Health Center


From peacekeeper to peacemaker, the Rev. Paul Abernathy’s road led not to Tarsus but to the Hill District.
After serving in combat in Iraq from 2003-2004, he became the founder of FOCUS Pittsburgh, an Orthodox Christian nonprofit organization.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Wheeling Jesuit University, a master’s degree in public and international affairs from Pitt and a Master of Divinity degree from St. Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary.

In his new role, Abernathy oversees the distribution of food, clothing, furniture and other emergency relief to needy Pittsburghers.

More than 2,500 Pittsburgh students from three neighborhoods have been given food and supplies, including one who was standing in line with his mother. The youngster had given away his own groceries to the families of other children. Abernathy made sure that kid was rewarded for getting the message about giving.  

My favorite thing about Pittsburgh ... Anything that tells the history of Pittsburgh. This city has such an incredible legacy, and I greatly enjoy finding inspiration from the stories of past citizens who persevered to build a city loved by so many.
 

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