Meet Pittsburgh's 40 Under 40 Honorees for 2017
We present this year's class of 40 people under the age of 40 who are making Pittsburgh a better place.
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Corey Buckner (30)
Manager of the Office of Community Affairs and LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council Coordinator, City of Pittsburgh
Corey Buckner has long been an activist, working as a grassroots organizer in his neighborhood of Garfield. He campaigned for Barack Obama and served as Bill Peduto’s deputy field director during Peduto’s 2013 run for mayor. Now, he will bring his activist and political skills to his role as LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council Coordinator for Pittsburgh. By making his advisory council as diverse as possible, Buckner hopes to keep fighting for equality for the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual) community. “Marriage equality was not the end-all,” he says. Buckner was one of the people who assisted Pittsburgh City Council in passing legislation that banned mental health officials from practicing conversion therapy for minors, a practice that aims to change their sexual orientation. He also is a liaison for Gov. Tom Wolf’s LGBTQ working group. “My goal for Pittsburgh is that we become a model city that is safe for LGBTQ people, and my hope is that we create influence across the commonwealth,” he says.
Michael Fratangelo (32)
Founder and CEO, DiverseCity, Inc.
Michael Fratangelo was volunteering in West Philadelphia when he spotted a group of black kids on their way to play basketball. He crossed the city line into the suburbs and saw another group of white kids playing basketball. They live so close, and they all play basketball, and they would probably never interact. The Wilkinsburg native recognizes the importance of diversity and having self-awareness and empathy for those who are different from you — he was the only white student in his class at Wilkinsburg High School. Those experiences led him to start DiverseCity, which brings together kids from the city and suburbs, of varying racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, in summer and after-school programs to play sports and learn together. It started in Philadelphia and has since grown to New York, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Pittsburgh. Fratangelo says DiverseCity may look and feel like a sports program, but it’s giving kids skills to succeed and thrive in a world that’s constantly changing and becoming more diverse.
Venkat Viswanathan (32)
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
In his first year at Carnegie Mellon University, Venkat Viswanathan made his mark on the scientific community when he won the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award. His lab, the Electrochemical Devices Lab, comprises more than 25 students and postdoctoral scholars working on developing more powerful, longer-lasting batteries for potential use in various vehicles. His lab has formed close collaborations with several Pennsylvania-based companies, including Watt Fuel Cell, Bosch RTC and Eaton Corp. He has been widely quoted on safety issues related to lithium-ion batteries, fires in hoverboards and e-cigarettes. Viswanathan’s current passion involves developing batteries powerful enough for electric planes. Through a collaborative project with NASA Ames, Glenn and Armstrong Flight Research Center, the project goal is to be able fly an electric plane powered by batteries developed in his research group. He also practices what he studies: Viswanathan drives a Tesla Model S.
Diamonte Walker (36)
Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Program Officer, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh
Diamonte Walker believes that women and minorities need stronger social and economic networks to start or grow their own businesses. As the new MWBE program officer for the URA, she hopes to widen the networks for women and minorities so they can develop relationships with economic development stakeholders and others. “I call it a game-changer,” she says. She also aims to help more women and minorities through the process of applying for MWBE certification. “It can be intimidating.” She comes to her new post with a track record of community development in the Hill District, where she lives. As the former program and operations manager of Hill Community Development Corp., she was architect of the Hill District’s business leadership (BLAST Program) and Holiday on the Ave., which activated pop-up market spaces for business people selling everything from jewelry to organic skin care products. She is part of the Pittsburgh Land Bank Board and also oversaw the development of a Neighborhood WiFi network along the Centre Avenue corridor to help businesses.