40 Under 40: 2014

In their own ways, the 40 men and women we introduce here show us daily how we can ensure that Pittsburgh is deserving of its Most Livable City title.


 

Among them are a former Ms. Wheelchair America, an Olympian and a Grand Jury Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival. Some work in the neighborhoods in which they grew up, while others work across the globe. They will change the way you look at everything from the not-so-humble plantain to your CSA share (which, in this case, stands for Community-Supported Art). They excel in their professions while uplifting their communities, and more than one of them takes issue with Pittsburgh being called the Most Livable City. “For whom is it most livable?” some ask. In their own ways, the 40 men and women we introduce here show us daily how we can ensure that we’re deserving of that title.
 

photos by Dave DiCello   |   makeup by Rachael Ryan   |  shot at Mansions on Fifth
 

Christine Wankiiri-Hale [39]

Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine
Christine Wankiiri-Hale says her work restoring dental health to patients “just may be the beginning of helping people feel that they can do something with their [lives].” It’s also just the beginning of Wankiiri-Hale’s community involvement. As the first woman of color to serve as associate dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine and a graduate of the American Dental Education Association’s Leadership Institute, she says she strives to be a leader both in her field and beyond. Wankiiri-Hale first moved to the United States from Botswana in 1994; two years later, she became involved in mentoring children on the North Side through New Hope Church. “Having that educational equipment,” she reflects, “allows them to have the ability to reach their dreams or have opportunities that they might not have otherwise had.” Eventually, she and her husband relocated to the North Side to be living examples of what is possible to those they mentor.

 

Melanie R. Brown [33]

Education Program Officer, The Heinz Endowments
Melanie R. Brown’s first work-study job in college involved teaching reading in a Washington, D.C., elementary school. She remembers lockdowns, drug paraphernalia on the playground and bars on the windows — and from outside the school, a view of the U.S. Capitol Building. “I could not understand why we were miles away from the capital of this country, the richest country of the world, and these kids were forced to learn in these conditions,” she says. She didn’t go to college to study education initially, but she soon changed her major, became a teacher and worked to advance educational equality ever since. As the education program officer for The Heinz Endowments, Brown helps to direct investments for educational improvement. Given the need that she sees every day, she says she has trouble with the idea of viewing Pittsburgh as the “Most Livable City” and wants us to think of it more as an aspiration: “This is the way I see it: We should want to be the Most Livable City in the country . . . I think it should be used as a charge to do better.”

 

Sam Franklin [34]

Executive Director, Office of Teacher Effectiveness, Pittsburgh Public Schools
There’s a lot that Sam Franklin loves about Pittsburgh. He cites the appetite to support innovation and the people who want to be part of positive change. He’s also insistent that we shouldn’t get too comfortable in our optimism. As the city reinvents itself, he wants to ask: “Who is going to benefit from the positive changes that are happening in Pittsburgh?” If Franklin has anything to do with it, a big portion of the beneficiaries will be the kids who are graduating from Pittsburgh schools. Franklin’s involvement in education reform began as a sixth-grade teacher and continued as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, when he designed a new kind of school: the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, which opened its doors in 2009. Also that year, Franklin became involved in reforming the Pittsburgh Public School system, supported by a $40 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As the executive director of teacher effectiveness, he works to recognize great instructing in Pittsburgh while offering additional support to help teachers improve their skills and better engage students.

 

Matthew Mohn [38]

Partner, Reed Smith LLP
Matthew Mohn took an oath as a lawyer to give back to his community, but as he represented large companies and entrepreneurs in transactional work, he struggled with how to fulfill that pro-bono pledge. When he learned about Urban Innovation 21, which helps to finance businesses in struggling neighborhoods, Mohn invited the organization to talk to his firm. He remembers hoping that someone in addition to him, the CEO and the chief operating officer of Urban Innovation 21 would show up. As it turns out, the room was packed, people were standing and everyone wanted to help. “That was a really fulfilling, rewarding moment,” remembers Mohn. Since October 2013, 60 Reed Smith lawyers have provided $400,000 worth of free legal services for businesses in Homewood and the Hill District. “My overall philosophy is about access and trying to level the playing field for people who haven’t had the same kinds of opportunities that so many people have,” says Mohn. That’s why he built this collaboration, why he’s a past president of the board of directors of Reading is Fundamental and why he’s a trustee with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. “It’s about access,” he says.

 

James Troup [39]

Chief Executive Officer, Pediatric Alliance
Though he’s devoted most of his career to issues of health care, James Troup’s background is not in medicine; it’s in the business end of health. “What you don’t want is your hospitals closing all the time because they don’t have any money,” he explains. In essence, he is devoted to the long-term sustainability of health care. Troup is CEO of the largest independent physician practice in Pennsylvania — that independence means that its pediatricians drive the decisions of the organization. Every decision that Pediatric Alliance makes is focused on kids and the pediatricians who serve them, ensuring that motivations remain clear. Troup also serves as vice president of the board of directors for the Bradley Center, a behavioral health-care center for kids, and an adviser and shareholder for FocusMD, which works to reduce medical costs through effective care management in the medical sector. Every day he works for children and the people who serve them, transforming our health-care system by starting with the population that will inherit it.

 

Selena Johnson [34]

Peer Coach Specialist, Allegheny County Department of Human Services
She’s frank about it — throughout Selena Johnson’s 11 years as a social worker, there have been times when the work was overwhelming. She says that’s the reason so many people burn out in the profession. Part of what she tries to do as a peer coach is to aid other social workers through those times. She also innovates in the field, refining the gathering of case histories and shifting the planning process to help families — with caseworker guidance — reach better solutions to problems on their own. This element of creating sustainable change is central to Johnson, who says, “I believe that you cannot continue to service or help families or individuals by doing the same thing . . . What worked years ago is not going to work today.” Johnson applies this in her work as a board member for the Woodland Hills School District, where she says her perspective as a social worker helps her to serve students in a formal education setting.

 

Tom Baker [35]

Chief Community Affairs Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh; Member of Allegheny County Council for District 1
Tom Baker wants to ask: “If you were a multimillionaire and could do whatever you wanted for a living, what would you care about so much, believe in that mission so much, that you would do it for free?” Through his organization Get Involved!, Inc., Baker has spoken to more than 50,000 students and civil leaders and written three books on community involvement, hoping young people will find and pursue the things they believe in. Beyond his day job at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, his community involvement could fill multiple pages. As a member of Allegheny County Council who represents suburbs north and west of Pittsburgh, he spends many hours supporting others as they reach out. “What I really love about [the job],” says Baker, “is going out and showing groups that their county government cares about them and believes in them and really wants to recognize them for all the good things that they’re doing.” So what does Baker believe in so much that he’d do it for free? The work he does every day.

 

Josie Badger [30]

Pennsylvania Youth Coordinator, PEAL Center
Josie Badger has been working for the independence of youth with disabilities since she started training service dogs at age 11. Most recently, Badger, who’s on staff at the PEAL Center downtown and was Ms. Wheelchair America 2012, co-founded the Children’s Hospital Advisory Network for Guidance and Empowerment. With monthly events at the hospital, this youth-run board works to support and educate young people as they transition into the adult health-care system. What makes CHANGE stand out from other disability programs is its constant encouragement for those with disabilities to advance both within the network and in the community. After attending several CHANGE events, attendees are invited to become interns, and they are mentored and educated in leadership by other youth leaders and adult allies. After six months, they are encouraged to take a position on the governing board, completing the cycle of this for-youth, by-youth organization, which targets people that other groups have overlooked. “It’s about not just surviving,” says Badger, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, “but about thriving and becoming leaders.”

 

Erin Colvin [39]

Clinical Director, The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center
The Lemieux Family Center is the only program of its type in the country, says Erin Colvin. A transitional hospital for infants with special needs and their families, the center teaches those families how to use medical equipment that their children will need at home. Because the center is a homelike environment, it aims to enable families to become comfortable while they still have nurses nearby — and to ensure that when they return home, they’ll be able to stay safe. Colvin also runs Child’s Way, The Children’s Home’s day care for medically fragile children. If you’re picturing something bleak, think again; Colvin describes kids running around, crafting and working on schoolwork. “It’s just like a regular day care,” she explains. “You wouldn’t know that these kids have medical needs.” Beyond her day job, Colvin also is involved with Zachary’s Mission, which supports families of critically ill children while they’re in the hospital, providing home-cooked meals and gift cards.

 

Katrina Brown [39]

Senior Product and Community Manager, Diamond Kinetics
Katrina Brown analyzes data with the goal of helping other people to become more active and healthy. This has had permutations in her work, from helping to market Alli, the first FDA-approved over-the-counter weight-loss drug, to her current job at Diamond Kinetics, a local company that provides motion data and analytics to baseball and softball players and coaches. She’s working on a product that gives players the data they need to improve their bat swing. “Hopefully, as we have more technology and we have more people thinking about technology, we can integrate that into pulling people away from their devices all the time,” she says. Despite her number-crunching nature, Brown says, “you can’t just understand people by looking at them on a piece of paper.” She serves on the Advisory Council for Educational Partnerships, which helps to provide school supplies for local kids in need. Through donations to teachers and schools, Educational Partnerships distributes supplies to students. When kids receive the supplies, she recalls, it’s with the enthusiasm of Christmas morning.

 

Erin N. Fischer [35]

Vice President and General Counsel, Mid Atlantic Capital Group
Erin Fischer’s passion for helping people at crucial moments of growth is central to her work. As a lawyer, she mentors young lawyers, especially women and minorities. In a legal community that tends to be conservative, she says it can be difficult for some to feel comfortable. “It can be pretty daunting at first,” she says. She serves on the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and mentors diverse law students. She reaches out in other ways, too. As a board member of St. Edmund’s Academy and previously as a mentor at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12’s Career Literacy for African-American Youth program, she strives to ensure that students have the support they need to seek equal educational opportunities. She also serves on the board of Our Clubhouse, which contacts kids and families touched by cancer. Uniting it all, she says, “I think that I try to keep my morals and involvement in the community and my love for Pittsburgh . . . in the forefront.”

 

Austin Davis [25]

Executive Assistant to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald
In a time when politicians may seem distant from the communities they are working to serve, Austin Davis is devoting his life to bridging these areas. While in high school, he approached Jim Brewster, then-Mayor of McKeesport, and pitched the idea of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council to discuss and make recommendations on youth policy; once the council was established, he served as the chairman. In essence, his work today isn’t that different. As executive assistant to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Davis works daily with the community. Likewise, his civic work aims to create systemic change through government. “Pittsburgh’s a little big city; everything’s connected,” he says. Issues may range from gun violence to preserving the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, but the people with whom he works on community boards, such as the Adonai Center for Black Males and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School, are the same people whom he reaches out to in his job. “I think everyone wants to get to the same goal,” says Davis. “It’s just how we get there that’s the bigger discussion.”

 

Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle [27]

Goalkeeper, USA Ice Hockey; Owner, Brianne McLaughlin Gold Medal Goalie Training
When Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle asked at age 4 if she could play hockey, her mother instead suggested ballet. It didn’t stick. She ended up at the rink, played through college at Robert Morris University and made it onto the 2010 and 2014 U.S. Olympic women’s teams, taking silver each time. Today she and her teammates devote numerous hours talking to kids, many of whom have not considered the work that goes into being a professional athlete; McLaughlin-Bittle also runs her own goalie-training program. “It’s not just about being a good hockey player,” McLaughlin-Bittle tells them. “You have to be a good teammate. You’ve got to work hard. Your team has to be able to trust you that when you go home you’re working hard.” Despite her Olympic successes, she says her proudest moment actually is a much earlier achievement. She remembers her senior year at Robert Morris, when the team was preparing to play national champion Minnesota. Radio DJs were asking “Who’s Robert Morris?” and few could believe it when the Colonials took the game 3-2, earning them a standing ovation from Minnesota’s traditional rival, Wisconsin.

 

Kevion Latham [25]

Partner, Fort McIntosh Wealth Advisors
Kevion Latham didn’t fall into the trap of being unprepared for life when a football career didn’t pan out after graduating from Penn State University. But he knows that there are people who don’t know how to get to where he is today — a partner at Fort McIntosh Wealth Advisors. In 2013, he joined Shawn Robinson in a pilot program called Orange Arrow, a nonprofit organization that works with kids from underprivileged backgrounds on everything from learning dining etiquette to discussing domestic violence. “It’s all about being a gentleman,” says Latham, though Orange Arrow also is piloting programs for girls. As the vice president of Orange Arrow, Latham has seen these children transform. They now meet people eye to eye; they stand up tall; they speak clearly. After all, asks Latham, “what’s the point of being educated if you’re not going to pass it on? If we keep it all to ourselves we’re not going to help society grow.” Kid by kid, Orange Arrow is helping to affect this change by showing what is possible.

 

Tyra Oliver [33]

Staff Attorney, Pennsylvania Superior Court
Tyra Oliver has the type of job that most of us probably never consider: She combs through the details of thousands of cases that have been appealed to Pennsylvania’s Superior Court to help determine if the rights of accused people were violated. “Important mistakes . . . are fixed at the appellate level,” says Oliver. “It’s another level of ensuring that people’s rights are protected.” Before taking her current position, she worked as an assistant district attorney; she says she knows she’s benefited from professional and community programs, which is why she now offers her own support. Oliver (who admits she has trouble saying “no”) is particularly active with the Allegheny County Bar Association, where she serves as the chairwoman of its Homer S. Brown division and works to support diversity throughout the association. She is co-chair of the Young Lawyer Division Diversity Committee, and she assists with the Diverse Law Student Initiative Program. Oliver serves as co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division Zone 12; she’s a member of its House of Delegates. She also is vice president for the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh’s Young Leaders Board.

 

David Bush [36]

Assistant Vice President & Relationship Manager, PNC Bank
To David Bush, art is not an extra in our city; it is a vital part of the whole. “The arts frame our community in the best light,” he says. Bush serves on the board of trustees for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the board of directors for Chatham Baroque and the leadership board of the Pittsburgh Symphony Association — and that’s just where his efforts begin. He and his partner, Tim McVay, served as co-chairmen of the 2014 Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force Gala fundraising event, which was the largest and most successful in the organization’s history. Bush has a soft spot for animals, too, serving on the annual Ball Host Committee for Animal Friends and on the President’s Circle for the Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center. In his day job, Bush works at PNC, a company that he says is deeply involved in our community. “It makes you very proud to be associated with this bank and with people who do these jobs day in and day out to help people financially.”

 

Cindy Fernandez-Nixon [28]

Senior Project RAMS Manager, Ansaldo STS USA; Owner & Executive Producer, La Rumba Productions / Latin Media Productions LLC
Cindy Fernandez-Nixon wasn’t always so keen on Pittsburgh, but she decided that if she were to make a home in the city, she also would make some changes. “If I’m staying in Pittsburgh, I’m going to do things so that all the other Latinos stay, too,” she told herself. First, she started “La Rumba,” the city’s first bilingual music radio show, on 88.3 FM WRCT. It isn’t just about music; she also uses her show as a hub of information for goings-on in the Latino community. For its first anniversary, she hosted a live event — which turned into a series of live events, incorporating everything from hip-hop to reggaeton to bachata. In 2011, she started hosting and helping to produce the first bilingual TV segment for WQED-TV. Today, her work has helped to bring together a bilingual Latino community in Pittsburgh around music, events and businesses. Fernandez-Nixon admits that her motive for entering into this work was selfish: She wanted to be happy. “The thing is that once you are happy yourself, you make other people happy,” she explains.
 

Asha Persaud [35]

Executive Director, The Hope Learning Center
When Asha Persaud first started working with children with developmental disabilities, she says she knew nothing, quite literally. On her first day, she was directed to work with a nonverbal child; afterward, she and the child spent two hours staring at each other. She realized that she had a whole lot to learn. Today she is the executive director of The Hope Learning Center, which has locations in Wexford and Peters Township and offers children with developmental disorders individually focused therapies. Established in 2007, the center offers full- and part-time programs, as well as one-on-one, group and outpatient offerings, child care, summer camps and support groups for parents and siblings. As of this year, it also includes the Hope Academy, a licensed private academic school. “I want to do as much as I possibly can to help the kids and help the families to make their lives easier,” she says. Earlier this year, The Hope Learning Center moved to a larger facility, more than tripling its space. It’s already paying off — enrollment this school year also has tripled.

 

Jenna Cramer [33]

Vice President, Green & Healthy Schools Academy, Green Building Alliance
Jenna Cramer describes her work as being human-centered, not building-centered. When it comes time to renovate school buildings, the questions she asks aren’t about structures. Instead she poses queries such as “What are the types of students that you are hoping to grow and graduate?” and “When you think about the next generation of leaders, what types of qualities do you want them to have?” From that point, she starts thinking about how the structures can cultivate traits such as empathy, critical thought and community engagement. “There’s a huge opportunity to integrate sustainability principles into the built environment and . . . to create healthy, socially just, environmentally friendly, economically vibrant and beautiful places where we all can thrive,” she says. If you can create small changes in how people feel and think and act in schools, the potential to affect larger change is enormous. She always has this larger picture in mind — whether that means installing a wind turbine and integrating it into an engineering program or renovating a greenhouse and courtyard garden.

 

Don Charlton [37]

Founder & CEO, The Resumator
With The Resumator’s job-recruitment software, Don Charlton intends to solve a technical dearth and restore a sense of equilibrium to the job market by “educating and empowering people to have awareness and access to every job.” Through his youth outreach, he works toward this target on a different level. Charlton grew up in public housing in rural Fayette County. By telling the story of how he went on to build the software used by the likes of Instagram and both candidates’ campaigns in the last U.S. presidential election, he hopes to restore for kids a sense of possibility, no matter where they’re growing up. Not only does he design tools to level the playing field, but he also speaks of the same goal. “The more successful I am, hopefully the easier it will be for people who don’t fit certain patterns to be considered potential leaders of businesses, potential leaders of technology, potential leaders of startups — basically potential,” says Charlton. “I’m trying to show that people who don’t fit patterns aren’t necessarily risks.”

 

 

Elizabeth Lamping [32]

Executive Director, Pittsburgh Human Resources Association
Though none of her jobs officially is “teacher,” Elizabeth Lamping says she sees education as central to her work. As the executive director of the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association, she devotes her days to working with business professionals at all levels, helping them to meet their goals through mentoring, professional development and networking. Prior to this position, she had worked in human resources. When she considered this opportunity, though, “almost immediately I fell in love with the education side of things,” she says. Under her leadership, the organization’s balance sheet has grown, and it has revamped its learning and professional development process for members and increased membership. As a member of the board of directors of the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, she helps young girls to develop the skills they will need to be leaders. “What I’m providing the kids are things that they’re not going to learn in textbooks,” she says. “It’s things they’re going to learn from being out there, meeting people and doing hands-on work.”

 

Anne Flynn Schlicht [39]

Assistant Director, Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University

According to Anne Flynn Schlicht, “It’s all about asking. We as women, we need to ask for more.” As the assistant director for the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, Flynn Schlicht devotes herself to helping women visualize and locate opportunities to grow their businesses. She brings to the position an awareness of the unique supports women may need — ranging from entrenchment in traditional gender roles to the fact that entrepreneurship may not have been part of their education — as well as an understanding of the myriad reasons they might need those supports. “A lot of them want to find someplace that is supportive and understands the challenges that women may have,” says Flynn Schlicht. That’s the type of place that she tries to create. Whether through programming to start and grow new businesses or pairing businesses and students on projects, she wants women to realize that “there is opportunity out there . . . You can move yourself forward.”

 

Christopher Musuneggi [38]

Vice President of Business Development, The Musuneggi Financial Group
Christopher Musuneggi and his mother started The Musuneggi Financial Group in 1998, with his cousin serving as a part-time assistant. In the past 16 years, they’ve grown the family business to include nine advisers and additional staff. That growth still is rooted in the personal element of the group — many customers become part of this extended family, he says. Through the links between financial health and independence, Musuneggi and his mother also founded Single Step Strategies to help women who came to them seeking financial advice but who had greater needs. Though the resources they provide range from psychiatrists to attorneys to career counselors, Musuneggi sees it as part of the same mission. He says, “It’s about building that relationship with that person; helping them [to] get their life on track and [helping them to] figure out that they will be OK and they’ll be able to make it. They’ll be able to send that child to college and retire.”

 

Kristofer Smith [37]

Director of Corporate and Community Relations, Seton Hill University
Under Kristofer Smith’s leadership, Seton Hill University’s fundraising has tripled — evidence, perhaps, of the greater ties that Smith is building with the community, largely through student athletes and athletics. An athlete for much of his life, Smith has firsthand knowledge of the responsibilities of student-athletes. He’s committed to providing scholarships and state-of-the-art facilities for all of Seton Hill’s 21 varsity teams, which he believes will help them to succeed. To that end, he put in place the Griffin Athletic Association, which allows supporters to define the teams their donations support. Building connections between community and college goes in both directions. Teams have mandated community-service hours, supporting organizations including the Blackburn Center (fighting against domestic and sexual violence) and “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” (promoting awareness of sexualized violence). A lot of what Smith does involves getting student-athletes and their coaches out into the community. That simultaneously creates the kind of buzz that brings people back to games, filling the stands.

 

Cori Begg [37]

Director of Alumni Relations, Chatham University
As director of alumni relations for Chatham University, Cori Begg does more than simply invite grads back to Chatham — she’s inviting them back to Pittsburgh. She’ll set aside a night with no campus events and arrange a tourist’s experience in the city for alumni. As she explains, “I want people to come back and relive their memories — but also experience the growth and the vitality that really characterizes what Pittsburgh is today.” At the same time, she’s working to expand that vitality within our community. As a board member for Sojourner House, a residential rehabilitation facility for mothers and their children, she managed and planned the 2014 Victorian Tea. It’s what’s called a “friend-raiser,” inviting people who are likely to be moved by the cause of Sojourner House to a classy afternoon tea. The event itself is free, but the donations Sojourner received this past year from 300-plus guests exceeded $50,000. Begg invites people back, yes — but she also makes sure she’s inviting them back to a strong and thriving city.

 

Liam Carstens [32]

Vice President of Medical Programs and Strategic Initiatives, Brother’s Brother Foundation
Through his work at Brother’s Brother, Liam Carstens coordinates donated medical supplies with hospitals in the developing world. Listening to people with needs is a big part of what he does: “We’re not going into a hospital . . . using some cookie-cutter approach: [Thinking] this is what works in Nicaragua, so this is what will work in Liberia, and this is what will work in the Philippines.” When Carstens was enrolled in the Policy Analysis and Administration graduate program at Duquesne University, he expected he’d have to go to New York or Washington, D.C., to do the international development work that he wanted to take on. Today, he works to help keep globally minded people in Pittsburgh. Serving on the board of directors for Global Solutions Pittsburgh, he promotes international education and engagement in the city. Through recent collaborations with Global Switchboard, Global Solutions also is providing office space and support to help other nonprofit organizations that promote global understanding.

 

Emily Keebler [35]

Kiva City Pittsburgh Lead, Kiva Zip
Emily Keebler has a deep understanding of small businesses, the reasons they can be so difficult to get started and why they benefit the larger community when they succeed. According to Keebler, 8,000 business loans are turned down every day by U.S. banks. She says she has a hard time believing that none of those applicants is worthy of a chance. To help some of those businesses along, Keebler is the Pittsburgh lead of Kiva Zip, which uses crowd-funded lending to offer small business loans. “We really want to help these small businesses to be successful so they can help our local economy,” says Keebler. “If accessing capital is one way to do that, we want to provide that type of opportunity for them.” This mission continues in her role as the first and only Dean of Awesome for Awesome Pittsburgh, which awards $1,000 micro-grants to projects deemed to be deserving. Keebler also participates with the nonprofit Urban Hike, which leads ’Burghers on short hikes that feature underappreciated gems.

 

Steve Hoover [31]

Director, Animal
When Steve Hoover decided to travel to India to document a friend’s work with an AIDS center for children, he says he expected that he’d be able to have creative freedom and maybe would complete that romanticized foreign documentary he’d once dreamed of making. What he hadn’t anticipated was the way he would be changed by the project. Hoover, who runs the production company Animal, reminds us that there are things that don’t come through on film. “The smells, the almost intolerable heat, the filthiness.” Hoover recalls, “I found myself just continually wanting to . . . retreat to all my comforts, and I saw somebody who was unwilling to do that because doing that meant that somebody else would suffer or feel left alone.” The resulting film, “Blood Brother,” won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. No one who worked on the film received a cut of the profits; instead, proceeds largely went to the nonprofit organization LIGHT, which was repurposed in response to “Blood Brother.” With the money from the film, LIGHT has built a transitional vocational training home for kids who are aging out of the orphanage system.

 

Casey Droege [32]

Artist and Cultural Producer; Assistant Professor, Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Adjunct Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
When Casey Droege returned to Pittsburgh in 2010, she focused on developing the city’s arts community. “I am one of those people who have drunk the arts Kool-Aid,” she jokes. “I believe that culture is important as a way to express ideas, open up conversation and experiment. I think it’s a really great forum to talk about things that we usually don’t talk about.” To that end, she puts together programs and events to open the arts community to a larger audience. She co-founded CSA PGH, from which you get locally “grown” art as opposed to vegetables. Its “shareholders” spend time with the artists, building art appreciation and community. The same value holds central to Six x Ate, a themed dinner-and-lecture series that brings together six artists to talk for five minutes each to an audience comprised of artists and other community members. “I’m really invested in people and building up relationships because I think as long as people are talking, something good will happen in the end.”

 

James Murphy [26]

Human Resource Information Systems Analyst, FedEx Ground
James Murphy was the only freshman at a networking event he attended during college, but that didn’t stop him from approaching Bayer about hiring him. When the company representative promised him an internship, she told him to remember this: He did not owe her, but he should pay forward the kindness she had showed to him. When Murphy says this, he punctuates each word: Pay. It. Forward. You can tell that he takes this call seriously. “Whenever I get a chance now, and it could be the littlest thing from money to time to my effort to just saying hello, I pay it forward.” Today he volunteers with the United Way and Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern PA, and he’s a communications and information technology lead and board member for MAD DADS. He previously served as treasurer for the National Society of Black Engineers Pittsburgh Professionals. As an engineer, he thinks structurally but applies that approach to his service, too. “In order for all the pieces to come together, you really need to make sure that you support them well.”

 

Joseph Calloway [34]

Owner, RE 360 LLC
Joe Calloway is a born-and-bred Pittsburgher. You know the type: the guy whose business — which serves the city — relies on the lifetime of connections he’s built in the area. The U.S. Navy veteran and self-taught contractor has dedicated himself to revitalizing the city’s South Hills neighborhoods by taking abandoned houses and turning them into affordable, livable homes. His real-estate company, RE 360, is akin to a big-scale community-service project, with a commitment to development in a way that maintains the character of neighborhoods for the people who live there. Calloway says his goal is to give back to the people with whom he grew up and the city where he was raised. He’s “the guy” when someone needs help, whether it means providing food for hundreds of Thanksgiving baskets or running a fundraising event for a landscaper and father who lost everything in a fire.

 

Deanna Ferrari Tomaselli [30]

Social Media Marketing Specialist, rue21
In her professional life, Deanna Ferrari Tomaselli has been a lot of firsts. At rue21, she is the company’s first social-media marketing specialist. In her past role at MARC USA, she was part of the team that started the company’s first social-media campaign for a client. She also was the first social-media chairperson for Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. It’s not just that she’s interested in Twitter — she’s interested in the more profound connections in which social media can play a part. As president of the local chapter of Ellevate, an international organization for business-minded women, she works to offer mentorship, networking and education. Tomaselli says she particularly values bringing together women across areas of expertise. “When you think outside your own industry,” she explains, “it opens up creativity and inspiration.” Under her presidency, Ellevate’s membership has grown by nearly 70 percent. Tomaselli also notes that many of these achievements occurred after she was diagnosed with lymphoma. It put things in perspective, she says, but it didn’t slow her down. She’s since run both a relay and a half-marathon to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

 

Chris Kail [35]

Director of Marketing and Shareholder, Legend Financial Advisors, Inc.; Adjunct Marketing Professor, Duquesne University
In 2000, Chris Kail was Legend Financial Advisor’s first marketing intern; in 2001, he became the first full-time marketing employee, and in 2005, he became a shareholder of the company — which should give interns everywhere hope. Today, Kail helps to create a company where, as he says, “we work hard, but we play hard, too.” The company plans regular social outings with employees, ranging from cookouts, to laser tag, to ditching work to go see a movie. But the community bond goes deeper than that. They’ve worked together to build a fully accessible playground for YMCA Camp Kon-O-Kwee/Spencer in Zelienople, and they participate annually in North Hills Community Outreach’s Turkey on Every Table to provide Thanksgiving meals to local families and Lee National Denim Day to benefit the American Cancer Society. Kail, whose mom and two aunts all are survivors of breast cancer, is on the American Cancer Society’s Greater Pittsburgh unit’s board of directors and volunteers with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

 

Jeremy Angus [25]

President & CEO, The Prevention Network
When he was younger, Jeremy Angus says he thought he’d go into politics. He even ran for the state legislature in 2012. Looking back on that, he says, “I started realizing that what I was talking about — even when I was running — was education, youth and social service.” Through his work with the regional nonprofit organization The Prevention Network, he’s involved with programming that includes drug and alcohol education. He’s also focused on Creating Learning Alternatives for Student Success academy, an alternate educational institution for disruptive youth. Angus says his life has transformed since he made this shift to education and service. No longer so fast-paced, he says he has more time to get to know people. “It’s allowed me to slow down a little bit, and it’s allowed me to take the scenic route a little bit more.”

 

Meredith Fahey [33]

Workplace Project Manager, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
When she first arrived in Pittsburgh, Meredith Fahey says she didn’t expect to stay. Not until her third semester in grad school did it occur to her that she could see herself living here. She was excited by the region’s energy and growth. “[Pittsburgh’s] comeback story is so miraculous in so many ways,” she says. “It’s awesome how different leaders and different organizations . . . were able to come together and figure out a way forward.” With her work with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, she’s helping to bring others here. She revamped its ImaginePittsburgh.com website to attract and maintain mid-career talent. Today the site aggregates positions within the 10-county region, pulling jobs from more than 900 jobs boards and corporate websites. According to Fahey, at any given time there are about 23,000-25,000 open positions in the region. But people need more than just a job — they need to see themselves here. “They want to know: How can Pittsburgh become their home?” she says. With stories of real Pittsburghers, ImaginePittsburgh.com also helps people imagine their lives here.

 

Tara Sherry-Torres   [32]

Owner/operator, Café con Leche; Community Organizer for the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation
Who doesn’t love plantains? Who doesn’t have a story, a favorite dish, a first time they had a . . .? Tara Sherry-Torres thinks there’s something magical about the bond that can evolve during a shared meal (a fitting thing for someone who’s a community organizer for the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation to say). “There’s something about breaking bread with somebody that gives you a familiarity, a humility, an empathy,” she says. When this Brooklyn transplant moved to Pittsburgh in 2008, that’s what she most wanted: a place for people to come together over food and promote Latin culture and problem solve creatively. In 2014, Sherry-Torres began Café con Leche, a programming series that uses food to build community. “People respond well when you give them a context to understand the food that they’ve always known about but never really understood . . . All of a sudden they’re learning about different cultures or themselves or their families.” That holds true whether we’re talking about the African roots of Latin cultures, the origins of the New York bagel or the beloved plantain.

 

Steven Little [36]

Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Pittsburgh
In the Little Lab at the University of Pittsburgh, engineers, undergraduates, graduate students, senior researchers and Steven Little himself collaborate with clinicians to find new ways for engineering to inform medicine, specifically through a process the group designed to control drug release in the body. Little now is able to mimic the way the body releases signals that serve as the body’s sophisticated “drugs.” He explains that they’re “learning how to talk to the body in the way that the body has evolved to talk to itself.” The methods they’re developing have been recognized worldwide, but for Little, it’s really about using chemistry, biology and math to make a big impact. Part of that impact is felt through his teaching. Little holds the distinction of being the only person in the history of Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering to win both the University of Pittsburgh’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award (2012) and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award (2013).

 

Anne Marie Toccket [30]

Project Coordinator, Pittsburgh Philanthropy Project at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh; Development Director, Awamaki
As project coordinator for the Pittsburgh Philanthropy Project, Anne Marie Toccket makes visible what philanthropy does for Pittsburgh. “The story of how the riverfronts were developed into green space — that’s a story of philanthropy,” she says. “And the story of how what was the red-light district in downtown Pittsburgh was turned into the Cultural District — that is a story of philanthropy.” Toccket is drawn to exposing philanthropy by people we don’t often think of — women and minorities as well as Andrew Carnegie. In 2009, while living and working in Latin America, she co-founded Awamaki, connecting Andean women textile makers to global markets ranging from small boutiques to Zappos.com. In 2011, she helped to grow Bloomfield’s radical cooperative bookstore The Big Idea. What’s today’s philanthropy? It covers the usual suspects, but, as Toccket points out, “it’s also people . . . who are young and who contribute to Kickstarter campaigns and who do volunteer work and who aren’t necessarily thought of as philanthropists.”

 

Bobby Zappala [32]

Co-founder & CEO, Thrill Mill, Inc.
Bobby Zappala calls himself a classic Pittsburgh boomerang. He left the city for college with a metaphorical one-way ticket, but as so many born-and-bred ’Burghers have done, he came back within a decade. The city had changed, and he quickly dedicated himself to its continued growth. As co-founder and CEO of the startup accelerator and incubator Thrill Mill, Inc., Zappala says he believes that we need to have more confidence in Pittsburgh. “It’s no longer a matter of, ‘Oh gee golly, shucks, I can’t believe someone’s interested in our city. [Pittsburgh is] a cool place to be, and we need to start embracing that.” Targeting ideas that may be too nascent for other incubators, Thrill Mill awards space, initial funding and formal support to Pittsburgh startups. Zappala and company then highlight these startups at Thrival, an annual music and innovation festival, helping to enable companies to get off the ground here. As Zappala says, “You’ve got a lot of people with technical skill and a lot of people with creative skill . . . and everyone’s looking for an opportunity to do something here, now.”

 

Dana Brown [36]

Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics; Assistant Professor of Political Science, Chatham University
“Women are great,” says Dana Brown. “We vote. We’re great citizens. Come [this month], we’ll be lining up for the polls . . . but,” she pauses, “we need more women to run.” If Brown had it her way, governing bodies would more fully reflect the diversity of the population they represent. As executive director of Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics, she presses the point that increasing the presence of women in the political sphere isn’t going to happen effortlessly. “There actually needs to be a political intervention,” she says. To that end, here is the homework Brown wants to assign to you: Think about the women in your life and the needs of your community. Is there a woman you can contact — someone you can ask to run for school board or township council? According to Brown, it takes a woman being asked, on average, six times before she says yes. Lesson No. 1: start asking. Lesson No. 2? Women, don’t wait to be asked.


 

About the photo-shoot location:

In 2005, entrepreneurs and preservationists Richard Pearson, Mary Del Brady and Jennifer Pendleton purchased and began nursing the historic Mansions on Fifth to its original grandeur after a 2004 fire rendered the buildings uninhabitable. Committed to restoring the mansions with an emphasis on sustainability and environmental stewardship, construction teams reused original material and worked with environmentally friendly products and locally sourced furnishings. Mansions on Fifth’s turn-of-the-century allure enhanced this year’s 40 Under 40 shoot as our honorees took their places amid intricately carved woodwork and iridescent stained glass. — Phoebe Ng
 

Categories: Business + Ed Features