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.

“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!




Riley Herrmann   [22]
Communication and Advocacy Coordinator, Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition;
Graduate Fellow, Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh

On Sept. 21, 2012, a bicycle flipped over at Fifth Avenue and Neville Street. Riley Herrmann broke two arms, woke up in a hospital and realized something: She was going to have to catch up on her studies. Sidelined during her sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh, Hermann picked up summer classes and graduated on time — all while working full-time at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children. She is the first in her family to graduate from college — her degree is in social work — and she left school with an award named in her honor. The Selfless Spirit Award was created after Herrmann stepped in to talk a despondent fellow college student out of suicide. Her remaining goal? When she flipped over the bike and broke both arms, she also was knocked out. A construction worker bundled her into his truck and got her to the hospital. “I have tried to find this man and thank him,” she says. Maybe she’s paid it forward.  You’d be surprised to know … People who know how much I adore Pittsburgh are always shocked to find out that I am terrified of driving through the tunnels … like, how could you love Pittsburgh and hate tunnels?


Carrie Rowe   [38]
Assistant Superintendent, Beaver Area School District; CAO, Beaver Area Academic Charter School

At most recent count, there are 13,588 public school districts in the United States. Representatives of only 100 were invited to a recent White House summit on how best to make the transition to education in the digital age. Carrie Rowe represented the Beaver Area School District at that gathering. Rowe, the assistant superintendent in the district, has been an evangelist for the case for providing students and teachers with broadened access to technology, which has become a key component in educational progress. In her spare time, she acts as chief administrative officer for the Beaver Area Academic Charter School, which provides educational options for disadvantaged, transient students.  My life motto would be … The more I learn, the more I doubt.


Michelyn Hood Tinor   [35]
Representative, Pfizer; Founder and CEO,
The Pittsburgh Spot; Host, Mount TV

A standout sales representative for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Michelyn Hood Tinor promotes the little guy as well: local small businesses with a story to tell. A born storyteller, she created The Pittsburgh Spot, a site that features short profiles of everyone from wedding coordinators to ice-cream entrepreneurs. The spots have been featured on WQED, and each week they draw more than 7,000 discrete viewers on the website pghspot.com. On the home front, she also is the on-air host of Mount TV, a television segment for the historic Mount Ararat Baptist Church, where she worships and volunteers.  If I could get a second chance … I’d tell my dad what a great job he did.


Anthony Williams   [35]
Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Operations, The Neighborhood Academy

Dean of Student Affairs at The Neighborhood Academy, Anthony Williams has taken the role of educator into the community with his volunteer work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; Frick Park Environmental Services; Go to High School, Go to College; A Voteless People Is a Hopeless People; Project Alpha; World Vision; the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh; Hosanna House — and that’s not the complete list. At East Liberty Presbyterian Church, it is Williams who keeps the lights on in the gym after-hours so young men from the community can work out and enjoy a game of basketball.  The person who helped to make me who I am … My grandfather, Paul C. Williams, played a critical role in my growth and development for me to be the man I am today. He was a loving father, a devoted husband and he was constantly engaged in impacting various communities throughout the city of Pittsburgh.



Aerion Abney   [27]
Program Officer, POISE Foundation

As a way station in the history of Pittsburgh immigration, the Hill District has produced its legends, from musician Oscar Levant to playwright August Wilson — people who rose in the world not in spite of the Hill but because of it. Enter Aerion Abney, who at age 27 has worked to remake the Hill District not only as a starting place but also as a destination and home. As lead facilitator for the Greater Hill District Development Growth Fund, he has overseen the infusion of more than $1 million for commercial development, including the dollars that helped to bring a new supermarket to what had been a food desert for more than a decade. As a leader with the POISE Foundation, his work has strengthened black families, and as a community volunteer, he promotes reading with third-graders at Pittsburgh Weil PreK-5.
You’d be surprised to know … If you turn on my living room or bedroom TV, [there’s a] 95 percent chance it will be on HGTV.


Bridget Guarascio   [32]
Conflicts Resolution Attorney, K&L Gates LLP

Sometimes a community leader flies under the radar — leaving traces across the charitable landscape. Meet Bridget Guarascio, a lawyer at K&L Gates who sets the pace in pro bono legal help. Working with the Neighborhood Legal Services Association, she helps low-income couples to resolve custody disputes, allowing each side a voice and sparing children from trauma. Beyond that, you’ll find her tracks in places such as the American Heart Association Young Leadership Team, Go Red for Women Executive Leadership Team, the annual Heart Ball Auction (she is chair) and the annual Pittsburgh Heart Walk. She has been part of the Emerging Leaders Kickoff for Auberle in McKeesport and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank as well. My scariest moment … Riding horses on a narrow, rocky mountain cliff in Mendoza, Argentina. I alternated between Hail Marys and expletives. Contrary to the language barrier, some words are universally known!


Brian Adams   [28]
Research Specialist, University of Pittsburgh

Brian Adams began on his path toward a career saving lives as a student at Duke University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in biology and public-policy studies, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he added a master’s degree in public health. All the while, he helped to co-chair the Health Sciences LGBTQ Alliance, advocating for health. He also served as a HIV test counselor, winning the first-ever Lansky Family Endowed Scholarship awarded to a Masters of Public Health student. Arriving at the University of Pittsburgh, he took a job working with the HIV Prevention and Care Project. Oh — and he started a kickball league. You got that right. One of the major shifts brought together the LGBTQ community and allies outside of the bar scene and on the playing field. Today the Stonewall Kickball — Pittsburgh league has two divisions, 16 teams, more than 330 players and support from a dozen businesses and organizations. And a leader determined to grow his community for the better.  If I could get a second chance … I have always gotten jokes about my name. I wish I had pushed my music career further; I already have a tagline. Brian Adams: An American Twist on a Canadian Classic.


​Gisele Fetterman   [33]
Founder, Free Store 15104; Co-founder, 412 Food Rescue

Growing up as a Brazilian immigrant in New Jersey, Gisele Fetterman learned a startling truth about her adopted country: The rest of the world can live on what Americans throw away. That wouldn’t do for the young woman from Rio. She furnished her family’s apartment from the still-usable discards on the curbside in her neighborhood. Flash ahead a few years, and Fetterman is married to the burly, tattooed Harvard University grad who is mayor of Braddock and a candidate for U.S. Senate. A nutritionist and aromatherapist by profession, she decided to open a “free store” that distributes surplus clothes, diapers, food, formula — just about anything some people can’t use but others need. The Braddock Free Store 15104, with its Brazilian manager — who serves on the board of Jeremiah’s Place and co-founded 412 Food Rescue, which aims to end food waste by redistributing unsellable goods — has become an island of sustainability in a world of disposability.   My life motto would be … “There are really only two types of people: Those I already love. Those I will love.”



Tiffany A. Katz   [33]
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Pittsburgh

Born and raised in the Bronx, Tiffany A. Katz is the first generation of her Dominican-Italian family to go to college. And she kept on going: undergrad, graduate and all the way to her medical-research doctorate and a life of research dedicated to finding ways to prevent breast cancer. Right now she’s on her second postdoctoral associate position in the Pharmacology and Chemical Biology Department at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the Women’s Cancer Research Center. As the advocacy and outreach chair for Pitt’s Postdoctoral Association, she played a major role in developing the Outstanding Mentor Award. The program has grown during the past two years, shaping the next generation of researchers.  The moment that changed my life forever … was meeting my [biological] older brother. He spent years looking for me on the Internet and finally found me in the fall of 2008. That night he told me that I had two other brothers, a sister, two nieces and a nephew and that we all love animals and have tattoos. After an incredibly long, detailed, in-depth conversation, we proceeded to dance to a live band playing some of my favorite cover songs. Over the next few years, I went on to meet my whole family and have never been the same.


Yu-Ling Cheng Behr   [37]
CEO, Sandra Cadavid

A classically trained violinist and a charity whirlwind with an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and five other academic degrees to go with it, Yu-Ling Cheng Behr markets handbags and jewelry. Think about that for a moment and then think about this: She markets goods designed in Pittsburgh and made by women in Colombia who have lost husbands to violence and are climbing their way out of poverty. The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Cheng Behr was director of marketing and later vice president of audience development and sales for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. In her spare time, she helped to raise funds for birthday parties for local homeless children through the nonprofit organization Beverly’s Birthdays and was among the first invited to speak at the inaugural TEDxPittsburgh talks in 2009. When she teamed up with Sandra Reiman and her then-new company Sandra Cadavid, the goal was to market purses. The products, made in Reiman’s native Colombia, have been featured in Glamour, Vogue South America and InStyle, proving that good deeds can be done with panache.  My big dream or ambition is … One day I would like to perform the Chaconne for solo violin from Bach’s Partita No. 2.


Nicholas Black   [35]
Lieutenant, Point Park University Police Department

Brace yourselves, but sometimes a bit of nonsense takes place on college campuses. That’s where Nick Black enters the equation. A lieutenant with the Point Park University campus police, Black often is the face parents meet at student orientation and the face their kids see when someone needs help. The New Kensington resident reaches out to students with drug and alcohol classes, CPR and first-aid training, and he teaches the vital “Refuse to Be a Victim” crime-prevention course at the downtown campus. His community work includes volunteering with the local YWCA, the New Kensington Hill Neighborhood Watch Group, Special Olympics and the Salvation Army. He’s also Point Park’s liaison with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. My life motto would be … We all have ability. The difference is how we use it.


Gina Villiotti Madison   [34]
Vice President, Consumer Banking Marketing, PNC Bank
With nearly one-third of PNC’s workforce nearing retirement in the next five years, crossing the generational divide has become an essential strategy, and Gina Madison is leading the way. A vice president at PNC, she is president of the Intergenerational Employee Business Resource Group — iGen — which focuses on sharing the best of both ends of the career spectrum. Since joining the bank in 2008, she has helped with the media launch of PNC’s Virtual Wallet, a money-management tool that blends technology with thrift. Other projects have included developing new ways to engage student customers. Her community involvement includes volunteering with the American Heart Association and Strikes Against Cancer, and she’s on the marketing committee for Interplay Child Care Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on children with special needs.   My big dream or ambition is … To master my work/life balance and rid myself of the working-mother guilt.



Christina Ascension Farmartino   [28]
Executive Director, The Open Door, Inc.; Interim Executive Director, Prevention Point Pittsburgh

For nearly a decade, The Open Door, Inc. has provided housing to people living with HIV-AIDS. The program sprang from a discovery: Persons with HIV need to keep their medical appointments and follow medication regimens, and nothing interferes with both of those requirements like homelessness. Christina Farmartino became executive director of The Open Door at age 25; two years later, she has grown its budget almost tenfold and quadrupled the number of people it serves. She also has taken on the directorship of Prevention Point Pittsburgh, an innovative nonprofit organization that provides needle exchanges and health counseling to injection-drug users. The success of The Open Door now is being modeled by groups in Youngstown and Philadelphia, the sort of success that earned Farmartino a fellowship for Coro Pittsburgh’s Women in Leadership Program.  Hardly anyone knows … I fear escalators. Yes, moving stairs.


Dr. Andrew Adams   [37]
Division Chief Internal Medicine, West Penn Hospital — Allegheny Health Network

The city that cracked polio and mastered multi-organ transplants is a tough place for a single doctor to stand out. But at a scant 37 years of age, Andrew Adams’s resume covers six densely written pages cataloguing the Oil City native’s training, clerkships, awards for excellence and rise to chief of internal medicine at Allegheny Health Network’s West Penn Hospital. What it doesn’t convey is the combination of faith and generosity that pulls him away from home to church medical missions. He’s treated orphans in Guiyang, China, performed medical screenings for poor families in Honduras and volunteered his services at the Light of Life Rescue Mission in the North Side. Every year, Adams takes two short-term medical mission trips with members of his church, North Way Christian Community in Wexford. At home in Butler County, he’s simply dad to son Austin and coach to his soccer-playing daughter, Avery. You’d be surprised to know … I was homeschooled from first through ninth grade.


Princess Rose Hughes   [36]
Parent Organizer, Hill District Education Council

More than half of the students at Pittsburgh Weil PreK-5 school come from disadvantaged homes. One advantage they can claim is the person they call “Miss Princess,” a young woman who overcame her own hardships to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and master’s degree from Point Park University. Now the parent organizer for the Hill District Education Council, Princess Hughes helps parents to engage with the school community while promoting positive self-image and conflict resolution strategies among various groups, including “Weil’s Lovely Ladies,” an all-girl group she organized. Thanks to her, every Weil student gets a Christmas gift, and every family is offered a Thanksgiving meal. A single mom at age 16, Princess Hughes makes sure families play a role in education.  Hardly anyone knows … I have never told anyone how I was named Princess. I was born at 26 weeks and weighed 1 pound. I almost didn’t make it. My mother, Roseanna Hughes, and grandmother, Geraldine Hughes, said I was their princess. I have a great love for those two ladies.


Lauren Byrne Connelly   [31]
Executive Director, Lawrenceville United

The greetings weren’t the kind of birthday wish Lauren Byrne Connelly was expecting. The head of Lawrenceville United had upset someone again, this time by opposing a neighborhood project she thought might become a nuisance. A brick inscribed with “HBD” and “LB,” presumably meaning “Happy Birthday, Lauren Byrne,” shattered her office window. Someone splattered paint on her home. Board members’ tires were slashed. Guess what: Lauren Byrne Connelly is still there and still fighting for her neighborhood. The granddaughter of legendary community organizer Aggie Brose, Byrne grew up on activism in her native Garfield and made her old neighborhood the subject of her junior-year school project. After a stint in city government, Lawrenceville United signed her as its executive director in 2010. The windows and door? Reglazed and repainted. Lawrenceville? A work in progress, making progress.  You’d be surprised to know … At the age of 17, I represented Pittsburgh in an international “personality contest” called the Maiden of the Mournes in Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland. Contestants came from all over the world, and the event was created to attract visitors and tourists to Northern Ireland following the Troubles. I didn’t win.



Harvey Daniels   [30]
National Recording Artist Frzy, Mogul Moves, Inc.

Pittsburgh’s rap scene already has produced two stars, Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller. Now a third appears to be ready for his ascent. Harvey Daniels performs under the stage name Frzy (pronounced “Frizzy”) and already has scored notice from Rolling Stone, MTV and Yahoo Music. He made his name the Pittsburgh way: winning freestyle rap battles that crowned him “King of the City,” then moving to other venues in cities such as New York to take crowns there. What makes him unique in the grit-and-glower world of hip-hop is his crossover appeal. He has done more than 150 presentations to the region’s students on the culture and history of rap music while working on collaborative projects with WQED, Huntington Bank and The Fred Rogers Company. You might have seen him perform and not have realized: Frzy was selected as the performer in the commercial to introduce Subway’s new melt sandwiches in a lighthearted sendup. Who knew?  You’d be surprised to know … I am actually a huge comic-book nerd. Even more ironically, about 50 percent of my 58 tattoos are comic book-, super hero- or video game-related (don’t tell anybody).


Nina Sauer   [35]
Co-owner, Most Wanted Fine Art

Art happens. And it happens all over the place in the Pittsburgh region because of people such as Nina Sauer, an Art Institute of Pittsburgh grad who helps to run Most Wanted Fine Art. The edgy gallery on Penn Avenue in Garfield creates pop-up installations in other neighborhoods, all to showcase emerging, regional artists. Sauer is the native of a small, Southern, coastal village that never saw snow. Dad was a commercial fisherman. Mom was a prison guard. Her grandfather taught her to make the playthings they couldn’t afford, and from there a love of art was born. Since coming to the city more than a decade ago, she has overseen an expansion and widening popularity for MWFA, organizing installations with her son, Rowdy, in tow. My life motto would be … I am the eye of the hurricane.


Matthew Scoletti   [32]
Associate Vice President, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning Associate, Certified Financial Planner, The Scoletti-Dandrea Group at Morgan Stanley

Working as a financial advisor can keep a man busy, especially when the place is named after him, but Matthew Scoletti, associate vice president at The Scoletti-Dandrea Group at Morgan Stanley, manages to add volunteer time. In fact, he’s been a federal President’s Volunteer Service Award winner several times. Scoletti has chaired the committee activities and entertainment for Relay for Life from 2007-2011, volunteered at the YMCA’s Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer, worked as a community leader in the South Side and raised more than $13,000 for Young Adult Cancer Support, along with another $12,000 for assorted charities with his annual March Madness Fundraiser. Add to that this curious factoid: He won a contest by doing 2,689 pushups in two hours.  You’d be surprised to know … I’ve been a contestant on both “American Ninja Warrior” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”


Nikole Brugnoli Sheaffer   [39]
Director of Innovation, Environmental Charter School

With a background in the corporate and educational sectors, Nikole Brugnoli Sheaffer has helped to change the educational atmosphere as director of innovation at Pittsburgh’s Environmental Charter School. Her job has evolved from science educator to director of academic planning and implementation to the one she now holds, helping to develop ECS as a leader in academic excellence and environmental stewardship and as a community change agent. Her work helped ECS to win a 2015 Western Pennsylvania Environmental Award and participate in the Carnegie Science Center’s STEM Excellence Pathway. Last year, she also displayed her narrative talents, holding audience members in thrall at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in New Orleans. The theme of her talk: Show up, every single day. She does, and ECS has flourished. My life motto would be … “Buckle your chinstraps, folks. This is going to be a fun ride.”



Amy Valentine Bilsland   [38]
Vice President of Corporate Finance, Chromalox, Inc.

Well before Sheryl Sandberg coined the term, Amy Valentine Bilsland was “leaning in.” She is the first woman to hold an executive position at the 100-year-old Pittsburgh company that started out as E.L. Wiegand and now is known as Chromalox. Between 2005 and last year, Chromalox’s numbers have grown fivefold, in part because of four multimillion-dollar transactions Bilsland helped to guide as a member of the team supervising Chromalox’s strategic direction. She takes that commitment to growth out of the workplace as well, with her work as a board member of Urban Pathways K-5 College Charter School and volunteer with Pittsburgh Social Venture Partners, an anti-poverty effort. She also helps as an organizer of The Jessie Games, a competitive event that benefits the summer lunch program of Catholic Charities.  My big dream or ambition is … To write jaunty responses for Pittsburgh Magazine. Oh, wait… Next on the list: negotiating world peace.


Justin Brett Kaufman   [38]
Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC)

In the same month he was turning 34, Justin Kaufman was named a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), where he’d been noticed earlier as a top performer and team leader. Making partner at a Big Four accounting and consulting firm wasn’t the only accomplishment on his resume. At Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, he was chosen as the school’s first-ever Graduate Business Association President, representing more than 500 students at the top-flight graduate program. On the board of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, he helped to team the Tepper School with the zoo in a venture that helped the zoo to reach its goal of becoming an environmentally friendly, sustainable facility.  Hardly anyone knows … I am a major fan of classic wrestling of the 1980s and early 1990s.


Stacy de las Alas   [39]
Assistant Director, Crisis Center North

In 1999, an angry husband broke into his estranged wife’s garage in central Pennsylvania. He shot her twice, killing her, and then turned the gun on himself. The sad episode, played out regularly in countless other cities and towns around the country, awakened Stacy de las Alas to the crisis victims of crime face. She is the niece of that woman. In the ensuing years, she earned degrees in psychology and art therapy and now devotes herself to coordinating programming for survivors of domestic violence as well as homeless children. From her base of operation at Crisis Center North, she has provided resources, counseling and education to improve the lives of victims — and to keep their ranks from growing.  If I could get a second chance … I was a vegetarian from 1996-2006 after years of working in a steakhouse in high school and college. It makes me sad to know I’ll never have those years back to enjoy the delight of bacon.


Ketaki Desai   [34]
Co-founder and President, PlantMetrix

The 2002 graduating engineering class at Maharashtra Institute of Technology, part of India’s Pune University, included more than 200 men — and one woman. Ketaki Desai had pushed aside old-world views and prejudices to graduate with honors, then settled in Pittsburgh after earning a Master of Public Management degree at Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University. Most recently, she has served as a co-founder and president at PlantMetrix, a Pittsburgh data-analytics startup for manufacturers. But this star pupil’s most singular contribution might be recess for grown-ups. Co-founder of a social project called the Playtime Foundation, Desai promotes the idea of lighthearted, non-competitive recreational breaks to keep corporate America’s workers healthy and happy. Not a bad mix of earnestness and conviviality for a young woman whose family, at times, lived on $1 a day.  You’d be surprised to know … On International World Hug Day in 2007, I stood in a central area in Texas A&M University, where I was working on my Ph.D., with a sign that said “Free Hugs.” I hugged [more than] 150 random people in two hours.



Damien Gottschalk   [34]
Investment Advisor, PNC Bank

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Damien Gottschalk rose through the ranks at PNC from teller to investment advisor. Along the way, he helped to build his own organization: the Military Employee Business Resource Group, a 1,200-strong cadre of veterans that helps employees to build on their unique strengths and deal with the singular challenges that face veterans. Working with other veteran-assistance groups such as American Corporate Partners, he has helped veterans in the often tricky transition back to civilian life. And those 50 volunteers who cheered on Paralyzed Veterans of America during the hand-cycling portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon? That was Gottschalk cheering the loudest.  The person who helped to make me who I am … It’s no-contest: my father. He taught me the importance of being a man: from how to change your own oil to holding the door for someone. The value of keeping your word, and how to react when others don’t.


Laura Kelly   [28]
Social-Media Manager, Carnegie Mellon University

Innovation Works has become a cauldron of fresh ideas and new starts in Pittsburgh’s tech sector, and one person once was in charge of getting out the message: Laura Kelly. As Innovation Works’ digital communications manager, she placed the Pittsburgh tech message in online and traditional media around the country, while working with city and county government and community leaders to make sure Pittsburgh’s tech entrepreneurial scene is front-and-center as a new generation creates The New Pittsburgh. Officials at Carnegie Mellon University took notice — she started this summer as the university’s social-media manager. Off the job, she mentors pre-release inmates at the Allegheny County Jail with education and job-placement classes that have cut recidivism and given hope for a fresh start. Kelly also has raised money to cover family expenses for a young girl with spina bifida. My life motto would be … Eat, Pray, Netflix.


Kevin L. Carter   [26]
CEO, Adonai Center, Inc.

On the verge of becoming a Pittsburgh School Board member at age 26, Kevin Carter already seems to have packed a lifetime into less than three decades. Raised in Manchester, Carter spent his formative years working at a Boy Scouts camp — he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. A standout at Point Park University, he worked as a community relations officer for state Rep. Jake Wheatley and later founded the Adonai Center, Inc. Adonai guides young African-American men at five different sites. As Adonai Fellows, the young men are taught to be leaders, staying clear of the violence and dysfunction Carter witnessed growing up in the 1990s. Is it working? Among the 14- to 18-year-olds who became Adonai Fellows, GPAs jumped by 72 percent, and 100 percent of them graduated from high school. Ninety percent have specific plans for the future, most of them for college.   The person who helped to make me who I am … I am like a small venture fund: I have a ton of investors. The list of individuals [who] have contributed to my success in some way or the other is long and has yet to be completed.


Julia Erickson   [36]
Principal Dancer, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre; Co-founder, Barre

Seattle native Julia Erickson has mastered the art of balance — on the stage of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, where she is principal dancer, and in the world of business, where she is the co-founder of the slyly named “Barre” for dancers. It’s a nutrition bar that combines Erickson’s love of dance with her passion for health and fitness. In the meantime, she promotes ballet in appearances around the region, holds master classes for aspiring ballet dancers and is working on a degree with a dual major in political science and business at the University of Pittsburgh — all while blogging on health and related topics for the Huffington Post. From a life on stage to creator of a kitchen experiment transformed into a health-food product sold at regional Whole Foods stores, this woman knows how to turn on point and stay upright.   You’d be surprised to know … I deferred from Barnard College with intentions of studying Latin American Public Policy; I wanted to give myself a year to see if I could hack it in the ballet world.



Ashley DeCicco Hart   [31]
Vice President / Municipal Bond Trader, Cline Financial Group

With a summa cum laude degree from Duquesne University’s School of Law and a slew of academic honors, Ashley Hart has hit the financial and philanthropic worlds with equal force. She serves as vice president of Cline Financial Group, where she specializes in the complex world of municipal finance bonds. In the community, she’s active in the Junior League of Pittsburgh, Young Business Leaders of the Family House of Pittsburgh and the Club Red of the American Red Cross, and she is co-chair and co-founder of the local National Kidney Foundation Young Professionals Committee. In May, she organized a Cinco de Mayo mixer at Oxford Centre for the National Kidney Foundation Serving the Alleghenies.
My big dream or ambition is … I would like to travel to all seven continents. I have been to six and am still missing Australia.


Regina L. Scott   [37]
District Director – Southeast District Office, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Dept. of Human Services

A walking whirlwind in the volunteer world, Regina L. Scott’s roles range from program organizer at the Macedonia Baptist Church to acting as a mentor, coach and choreographer for the Miss Ebony Teenage and Miss Princess Scholarship Pageant. While considering that, it is easy to overlook her other, singular accomplishment: She became the youngest district director ever appointed to the western Pennsylvania office of the Department of Public Welfare, now called the Department of Human Services. A Duquesne University graduate, she first worked at KPMG, one of the Big Five accounting firms, before taking a post at WQED. After joining Human Services, she went on to lead operations for three of the largest district offices serving Allegheny County’s disadvantaged citizens.  My life motto would be … “Be fair … do good … appreciate life … love others … eat well  … and travel often.” I think that sums up life.


Albert Presto   [36]
Assistant Research Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

Growing up in the North Hills, Albert Presto heard the old stories of Pittsburgh as “hell with the lid off,” when Pittsburgh was a smoky, fiery, grimy place. He has spent his professional life keeping the lid on. As an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, he heads a research group that investigates the region’s air quality, mapping pollutants as they circulate and calculating new ways to keep everyone breathing easier. His freely available pollutant maps have helped groups such as PennEnvironment, GASP and the Sierra Club develop strategies in their quest to steer the environmental dialogue in the region.  You’d be surprised to know … I am what you might call “directionally challenged.” I regularly get lost when I’m driving downtown. In my mind, it’s not a road trip until I have to make a U-turn somewhere.


Bibhuti Aryal   [36]
Manager – Technology and Business Consultant, SDLC Partners; Co-founder/President, Rukmini Foundation

During the past four years, young girls in Nepal have received an education, mentoring and encouragement from a Pittsburgh organization founded by Bibhuti Aryal to honor his great-grandmother — a woman married off to an older man before she was 11. Since that time, the Rukmini Foundation has been a source of support for underprivileged girls in Aryal’s homeland, sharing the legacy of a grandmother who encouraged her own children to get an education in search of the opportunities denied to her. After twin earthquakes shattered the mountain nation this spring, Aryal’s foundation broadened its work to help victims with fundraisers around the region. A Pittsburgher since age 9, Aryal finished an undergraduate degree in two years, graduating magna cum laude from Robert Morris University, before earning his MBA from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. He now is a technology and business consultant at Pittsburgh’s SDLC Partners, and in his free time he is a founding member of the Pittmandu soccer team, the epitome of western Pennsylvania’s blend of cultures (and place names).  If I could get a second chance … I wish I could have had the chance to go back to Nepal to see my great-grandmother Rukmini again … to thank her for setting into motion the chain of events that led to me having the opportunity to do the things I am able to today.



Kevin E. Cooper   [35]
Instructor, Pittsburgh Public Schools; Magisterial district Judge-Elect, Wards 12 and 13

At age 35, Kevin E. Cooper is about to take on his second career. In the coming year, he’ll be sworn in as Magisterial District Judge for Pittsburgh’s 12th and 13th Wards in the East End, the presumptive winner in the fall general election after winning the Democratic nomination in the spring primary; he faces a Green Party challenger and no opposition on the Republican ballot. He’ll be a new judge with the same name: Kevin is replacing his father, Kevin Sr. One of two children in an inner-city family, he interned for the longtime Pittsburgh congressman Bill Coyne before returning to college in Washington, D.C., to earn a master’s degree in teaching. He went on to spend the next decade teaching in D.C., Maryland and now Pittsburgh. Cooper became focused on the violence that he had seen tear through his neighborhood as a youngster and became active in groups such as Stop the Violence; later he worked with citywide athletics leagues to provide after-school alternatives.  You’d be surprised to know … My family and church family call me “Gene” [his middle name is Eugene]. When I was young, my family called me “Gene Gene, the Dancing Machine.”


Eugene Goodwine   [33]
Voucher Examiner, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Eugene Goodwine, the founder and director of the North Side Youth Athletic Association, has brought a military veteran’s discipline and a Pittsburgher’s heart to change the lives of hundreds of children in the inner city. After growing up in public housing, he joined the U.S. Air Force; he came home and started a freelance photography business about seven years later. He went on to work for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The NSYAA provides year-round activities to young people who are, as he puts it, very much like him: at-risk kids growing up in a tough neighborhood.  Hardly anyone knows … I don’t mind a romantic comedy movie.


Katie O’Malley   [31]
Assistant Communications Manager, Office of Mayor William Peduto

If something is happening in Pittsburgh city government, chances are Katie O’Malley is getting the story out to the public. As assistant communications manager for Mayor Bill Peduto, she helps to manage daily communications in the nerve center on Grant Street. Her work included coordinating major events such as the city’s Marriage Equality Ceremony, the World Cup Watch Party, the funeral for former Mayor Sophie Masloff and the now-legendary “Undercover Boss” episode featuring her boss, Mayor Peduto. For Pittsburgh Penguins fans, O’Malley hardly is a new face in her new position. In the preceding six years, she served as the in-arena host and PensTV personality who provided in-game entertainment and in-depth player interviews.  Hardly anyone knows … I was once run over on the sideline of a NFL Sunday Night Football game on national TV. (Yes, there’s video.)


Jordan R. Pallitto   [31]
Vice President, The Hill Group, Inc.; Adjunct Teaching Assistant and Instructor, Carnegie Mellon University
As vice president of The Hill Group, a Carnegie-based consulting firm with dozens of corporate and nonprofit clients, Jordan Pallitto leads organizations through the strategic planning process — a sometimes maze-like journey from idea to completion. At age 31, he has worked with such local giants as UPMC, The Forbes Funds, The Heinz Endowments and Highmark, as well as civic groups such as East Liberty Development, the Mount Washington Community Development Corp., the YWCA and Grow Pittsburgh. On the charitable front, The Consortium for Public Education, the Hempfield Area School District Charitable Foundation Fund and Robert Morris University are some of the organizations that have drawn on his expertise both professionally and on a volunteer basis.   My big dream or ambition is … I’d like to own one of those farms in Spain that make the really good Spanish Iberian ham, where the black-hoofed pigs eat acorns and olives and the owners smoke cigars all day.

Dennis B. Roddy is a freelance journalist and former special assistant in the Pennsylvania Office of the Governor. A longtime staff writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he also has written for a number of regional and national publications.


photo by klaus nahr via flickr creative commons

SEN. JOHN HEINZ HISTORY CENTER: Much like our 40 Under 40 honorees, the Sen. John Heinz History Center — the setting for this year’s 40 Under 40 photo shoot — keeps busy with a wide variety of interests and endeavors. Those pursuits include the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, which honors the region’s tradition of athletic excellence, and stretch well beyond the walls of its Strip District museum to the Fort Pitt Museum at Point State Park and Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village in Washington County. Inside the Smithsonian-affiliated History Center, the story of Pittsburgh — from George Washington to H.J. Heinz, from steelworkers to Mister Rogers — is preserved, explored and reborn.

— Sean Collier

Categories: 40 Under 40, Hot Reads