50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.

Power. It’s the ability to make things happen — and to move and shake others to action. It is a concept devoid of judgment; power can be used for a good and honorable outcome, but it also can be used as a cudgel for a negative one. There are many ways to wield it: Some individuals bend people to their will through force of personality and ideas; some use wealth and the promise of sharing it. Others, knowing the power in sheer numbers, lead groups to make change. The most powerful among us possess a combination of these traits. Through history, fabled titans of industry and finance shaped Pittsburgh. Today, the meaning of power here requires a more nuanced assessment.

Pittsburgh Magazine spoke with dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players in public and private industries to learn more about the women and men with influence today. Pittsburgh’s power structure is continually evolving, and in recent years, we’ve seen new leaders emerge in practically every institution and sector, including politics, nonprofit organizations and universities. Had we assembled a version of this list 15 years ago, for example, it would have looked remarkably different. In 2000, Grant Oliphant was working at a marketing company, Bill Peduto was a staffer for a member of City Council, Subra Suresh was teaching at MIT and Laura Karet was working at Sara Lee in Chicago. Fast-forward to today, and they’re helming The Heinz Endowments, the City of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Giant Eagle, respectively. That’s a sea change in leadership.

"Immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control affairs." Andrew Carnegie

An important note: This is not a list of our favorite people in the city nor a grouping of do-gooders. It is a list of people who control the levers of government, business, foundations and nonprofits. One dynamic that came out in our reporting: White men and the leaders of the Democratic Party still run a large portion of Pittsburgh. To be sure, many of them use their power admirably, but there’s no doubt that a more diverse group of leaders — one that reflects the city and region — would be better positioned to respond to the needs and goals of our entire community. It’s up to us, as a city, to help our next leaders begin to take the reins.

This list, then, is a snapshot in time, a representation of the women and men who control Pittsburgh today. Fifteen years from now, it will look remarkably different. 


1. Grant Oliphant
President, The Heinz Endowments

If there’s a major project happening in Pittsburgh, chances are that Oliphant is pulling the strings. His six-year tenure atop The Pittsburgh Foundation saw that organization increase its assets by a third in the middle of a recession; even more impressively, that foundation oversaw the recruiting and hiring of Mayor Bill Peduto’s senior staff through its Talent City initiative. Oliphant quickly has made his presence known at Heinz, which shortly after his arrival in May 2014 jettisoned a controversial connection to the Center for Sustainable Shale Development. Since then, he’s overseen the P4 Conference on urbanism in April, become the primary force in development of the 178-acre Almono site in Hazelwood, brokered the sale of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture to Heinz and other foundations and forged close ties to the Peduto administration. In Pittsburgh in 2015, no opinion matters more than Oliphant’s.  ◆

2. Jeffrey Romoff
President and CEO, UPMC

During the 23 years Romoff has served as president of UPMC — he earned the CEO title in 2006 — he’s helped to turn it into one of the most advanced and visionary health systems in the world. UPMC also is one of the biggest, generating $10.1 billion in revenue in the last fiscal year and becoming Pennsylvania’s largest private employer. Still, UPMC’s quality care (repeatedly ranked among the nation’s best on the U.S. News & World Report honor roll) and myriad good deeds (such as giving $100 million to The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program) often are overshadowed by some of its business practices. Hard-knuckled tactics (combating the union drive for low-wage workers, refusing in-network care to Highmark patients), at times can verge on petulant; witness the recent banishment of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from hospital newsstands. Still, like him or not, Romoff makes his presence known.  ◆


3. Bill Peduto
​Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

After eight years of having former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in City Hall, the Peduto administration has been a breath of fresh air. The city’s current leader has been jetting around the country and world, talking up Pittsburgh’s greatness, while overseeing a number of long-overdue (and Millennial-friendly) projects. Among them: revamping the newly renamed Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspection; updating the city’s computer systems; installing widely — if not universally — applauded bike lanes; hiring a diverse group of technocrats to oversee city departments (see No. 14); and creating a plan to increase the city’s population through immigration. He’s had a couple of small stumbles — such as his attempt to conceal the source of funding for “Undercover Boss” gifts — but it finally feels as if City Hall is working for its residents again.  ◆


4. Rich Fitzgerald
Executive, Allegheny County

The bossman of Allegheny ate a slice of humble pie after his favored candidates in the May primaries went down in defeat, but there’s no escaping the fact that Fitz is a major player in the area. He oversees the vitally important county departments, including the Health Department (where he managed to attract top talent Karen Hacker) and Human Services (run by widely respected Marc Cherna), as well as the Airport Authority (where Christina Cassotis, No. 17, is making waves). Fitzgerald’s most powerful trait, though, might be his ability to build strong working relationships with fellow politicians such as Peduto (No. 3), Gov. Tom Wolf (No. 31), U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (No. 44) and state Sen. Jay Costa (No. 48).  ◆

5. Laura Karet
CEO, Giant Eagle

When Karet took the helm of the grocery firm that feeds much of the region from her father, David Shapira, in 2012, she hit the aisles running. She already had launched the Market District to counter high-end grocers such as Whole Foods, and as CEO, she’s continued to capitalize on the success of the perks programs with an eye on better branding and better digital tools. Up next for Karet and Giant Eagle — the 35th largest private company in America and the largest supermarket chain in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland in 2014 — is to continue opening more stores, with the ambitious goal of doubling 2014’s $9.7 billion in revenue in the next 10 years. She’s also chair of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the business-support arm of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.  ◆

"The measure of a man is what he does with power." Plato

6. William Demchak
Chairman, President & CEO, PNC Financial Services Group

In his relatively short tenure atop the fifth-largest bank in the United States and one of our region’s few Fortune 500 corporations, Demchak has proved himself to be an able successor to the legendary Jim Rohr (who remains a player at No. 15). The 52-year-old has positioned PNC as a more environmentally friendly organization by limiting lending to companies focused on mountaintop coal removal and by completing the energy-efficient — and handsome — addition to the city’s skyline begun by Rohr: the 33-story Tower at PNC Plaza. On the community side, Demchak serves on the influential boards of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the YMCA and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and he also is chairing the board of Envision Downtown, a foundation-funded program to reimagine pedestrian and traffic interactions. Oh, and PNC’s stock price has done well, too: It’s up 30 points since Demchak became president in 2012.  ◆

7. Scott Izzo
Director, Richard K Mellon Foundation

​Izzo likes to fly under the radar, abhorring both press interviews and public acclaim for his works, but he has the biggest checkbook in the region, thanks to the $2 billion endowment of R.K. Mellon. It’s a major benefactor in both conservation with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and in economic development projects such as the Energy Innovation Center and East Liberty transit development. “Initiatives,” one area leader told us, “are based on where Scott will stand.”  ◆


8. Subra Suresh
President, Carnegie Mellon University

You don’t get this high on the list without an astounding resume, and few can match that of Suresh: After growing up and earning an engineering degree in his native India, he earned a Ph.D. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he first was hired as a professor and researcher. Later, he served as that school’s dean of engineering. Before joining CMU, he ran the National Science Foundation, a $7 billion federal agency that provides grants for science research; while there, he also happened to work with another high-level bureaucrat named Pat Gallagher (No. 9), portending the continuation of a strong University of Pittsburgh-CMU relationship and their roles in New Pittsburgh’s tech and intellectual braintrust. His leadership and connections — in Washington, D.C., and internationally — will further leverage CMU’s world-renowned reputation.  ◆


9. Patrick Gallagher
Chancellor & CEO, University of Pittsburgh

After earning a Ph.D. in physics at Pitt in 1991, Gallagher went off into the world, rising up at the National Institute of Standards and Technology — eventually becoming that agency’s director under President Barack Obama — before returning to his alma mater last year to become the school’s 18th chancellor. He’s already making dynamic moves, exciting staff with a $1 million early-stage investment fund for faculty projects and mobilizing partnerships with a multimillion-dollar project to analyze health care data with CMU and UPMC.  ◆

10. The Hillman Family
Philanthropists, Hillman Family Foundations

The passing of Elsie Hillman on Aug. 4 shook Pittsburgh’s foundation and political worlds, where for decades, the first question about potential developments in the region — a new park, a new school, a new social-services program, a would-be Republican politico — was: “What does Elsie think?” Renowned for her generosity and support of women’s issues, she was the first and last word on both aspiring nonprofit projects and political candidates, particularly moderate Republicans who shared her social views. For now, husband Henry will continue their longtime philanthropic mission; in recent years, he’s been the energy behind Envision Downtown and Carnegie Mellon University’s BrainHub, gifting $5 million for the multidisciplinary project aimed at fostering better understanding of the human brain. But with Henry no longer as intimately involved in the nitty-gritty of projects as he once was, the question becomes: Who will take over the Hillman Family Foundations? President David Roger is a highly respected leader, but the city and region await the vision of the next generation of the Hillman family.  ◆

Next: 50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh #11-20



11. Rich Lunak & Jim Jen
President & CEO, Innovation Works / Executive Director, AlphaLab

Innovation Works is a hive of busy bees with Lunak at the center, hand-selecting technology startups that receive seed-stage funding in Pittsburgh. Recognized as one of the most active seed-stage investors in the country, IW has invested $65 million in startups to date. As for Jen, he had the keen foresight to create IW’s mentoring program, AlphaLab, before accelerators were a national trend. Recognized as one of the top accelerators in the world, AL attracts smart talent from an international pool. IW is on the move, having moved into temporary space in what will be a new innovation campus called Nova Place in the refurbished Allegheny Center. Together, they hold the power to set the agenda in the startup community and create the next employers in our region. ◆

12. J. Kevin McMahon
President & CEO, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

There may be no one as closely associated with bringing people downtown as McMahon. The Cultural Trust’s empire is vast, including control of (or, at the very least, intimate relationships with) nearly every theater, gallery and other arts venue in the Golden Triangle, as well as major events such as the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, EQT Children’s Theater Festival, regular Gallery Crawls, Highmark First Night Pittsburgh and the 2013 Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts (which was responsible for the downtown visit by a certain rubber duck). McMahon’s 14-year tenure at the helm of the organization already has seen myriad successes; as the Cultural Trust continues to acquire and develop downtown real estate, that’s a trend that shows no signs of stopping.  ◆


13. Dan Rooney & Art Rooney II
Chairman and President, Pittsburgh Steelers

Without the Rooneys, you’d have to redraw the maps of the North Shore — and without the Steelers, you’d have to recast the region’s character. The elder Rooney, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and key supporter of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, lends his name to the rule that NFL teams must interview a minority candidate for head coaching and senior football operations positions; as of June, it’s being mirrored in soccer, as lower tiers of play in England are implementing the policy. (It’s also been suggested as a potential fix for Hollywood’s gender gap in the director’s chair.) Meanwhile, Art Rooney II — Dan’s son — met in late June with Peduto to discuss the possibility of bringing the Holy Grail to Pittsburgh: a Super Bowl on the North Shore.  ◆

14. Kevin Acklin & the Talent City All-stars
Mayor's Chief of Staff and Senior Staff, City of Pittsburgh

When Peduto won the general election in November 2013, he and right-hand man Kevin Acklin — a onetime mayoral candidate himself — set about staffing the office in a novel way. Instead of hiring a bunch of political hangers-on, they partnered with The Pittsburgh Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh and set about scooping up a group of top-notch, diverse directors through their Talent City initiative. Of the 44 individuals they hired, more than half are women and 25 percent are African-American. Among the highlights: Chief Innovation and Performance Officer Debra Lam, who is dragging the city’s technology into 2015; Planning Director Ray Gastil, who’s charged with overseeing the high-profile developments of Almono, the Lower Hill District and Larimer; and Valerie McDonald-Roberts, who held previous roles with the city and county and now is working with housing and nonprofits as the chief urban affairs officer. Acklin, meanwhile, oversees the entire mayoral staff, runs the powerful Urban Redevelopment Authority and serves as the muscle behind Peduto’s initiatives.  ◆

15. Jim Rohr
Chairman, Carnegie Mellon University Board of Trustees

PNC was one of America’s few financial institutions to make it through the Great Recession unscathed — it actually doubled its revenues by acquiring National City bank of Cleveland in 2008 — thanks to the leadership of then-CEO Rohr. And although he officially retired from his CEO role in 2013, he seems to be even busier today. He sits on 11 boards, including those of General Electric, Allegheny Technologies and EQT, and earlier this year he became chairman of the board of trustees at CMU. As one insider told us: “People still stand up and salute him — he’s that well-regarded.”  ◆

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." Abraham Lincoln


16. Janera Solomon
Executive Director, Kelly Strayhorn Theater

Ask those in the art community who is most responsible for saving downtown’s August Wilson Center for African American Culture and they’ll open with a strategic response — many factors, unsung heroes, group efforts and so on. Then, when they’re being direct, they’ll name Solomon. The Guyana-born arts advocate and executive possesses an ability to bring disparate interests to the table to develop sustainable and forward-thinking plans for arts organizations, including in her work with East Liberty’s Kelly Strayhorn Theater, where she is executive director. Her talents may have had more to do with the August Wilson Center’s survival than any other factor — which bodes well for her ongoing efforts to turn a four-block stretch of Penn Avenue around the Kelly Strayhorn into a thriving cultural district.  ◆

17. Christina Cassotis
CEO, Allegheny County Airport Authority

Pittsburgh International Airport has struggled since U.S. Airways cut back its operations in 2004, but  Cassotis, who was hired in December 2014 by Rich Fitzgerald, is reinvigorating the terminal. Five small airlines — including Allegiant, Porter, Sun Air, Sunwing and OneJet — are lined up to offer services this year, while Cassotis is pushing to add more flights to both international locations and California to help connect our burgeoning tech community with investors. The terminal itself also has been revamped, with the addition of a mothers’ nursing lounge and other improvements. ◆


18. Morgan O’Brien
President & CEO, Peoples Natural Gas

Many business leaders see reaping rewards for corporate shareholders as their only mission. O’Brien is convinced that investing in the Pittsburgh region will pay dividends for his company — Pennsylvania’s largest natural gas distributor and a leader in the growing shale energy economy. As chairman of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, he’s been instrumental in widening the organization’s scope to look at the region as a whole. He’s also helped the United Way to push through a statewide 211 number to connect people with housing and health services. Finally, he oversaw Peoples’ purchase of Equitable Gas in 2013 — a rare service-provider transition that wasn’t hell on customers. Other utility owners: This is how it is done.  ◆

19. David Malone
President & CEO, Gateway Financial

As the leader of a company that provides investment and insurance services to massive corporations, Malone has regular access to some of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals around. He leverages those connections as a major Democratic fundraiser and philanthropist, sitting on the boards of the United Way and The Pittsburgh Foundation and as a trustee at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and Robert Morris University. “He can pick up the phone and get somebody to do something,” one observer told us, “just because he says it’s important.”  ◆

20. Laura Ellsworth
Partner-in-Charge, Jones Day

Litigator Ellsworth may have lost a little sway when her bud, former Gov. Tom Corbett, lost his re-election campaign in 2014 — she had served as the co-chair of his 2011 inauguration, and he had appointed her to the state’s board of governors for higher education and the state council on privatization and innovation. Still, her influence extends beyond the Republican party and into the philanthropic world, with her roles as chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and on the boards of the McCune Foundation and Imani Christian Academy, among others. As one high-profile individual told us: “By the dint of her personality, relationships and delivery, she builds a coalition of people.”  ◆

Next: 50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh #21-30


Ron Burkle, Co-owner
Mario Lemieux, Chairman & Co-owner
David Morehouse, President & CEO

Everyone we spoke with for this story was quick to categorize Morehouse, who also worked in the Clinton administration and for the Al Gore and John Kerry presidential campaigns, as the true power player among Pittsburgh Penguins brass. But Lemieux and Burkle hold the keys to the kingdom since announcing that they’re considering options regarding selling the team. Though it’s unlikely that any theoretical new owner would shake the relationship between Pittsburgh and one of the NHL’s most successful and storied franchises, it’s hard to overstate the sway that would come with owning the Penguins.  ◆

22. Heather Arnet
Chief Strategy Officer, Women and Girls Foundation

Few organizations have such a clear and important mission as the Women and Girls Foundation, which is charged with advancing gender equality. Since Arnet took over the foundation in 2004 as its CEO, her leadership has been an inspiration, as she’s promoted gender and minority representation on Pittsburgh boards, led a “girlcott” against Abercrombie & Fitch over sexist and racist T-shirts, served as board chair for the national Ms. Foundation for Women and pushed for equal pay across the country. She also wrote and directed the 2014 documentary “Madame Presidentá: Why Not U.S.?” about female heads of state — and the need for one in America. No surprise that powerful Democrats have tapped her to run for a state Senate seat representing South Hills communities, prompting her new WGF role.  ◆

23. Todd Reidbord
Principal & President, Walnut Capital Partners

If Whole Foods was Walnut Capital’s proof-of-concept, Bakery Square was a leap of faith, resulting in the LEED-certified renovation of the blighted Nabisco factory that now is home to Google Pittsburgh and UPMC’s Technology Development Center. Fast-forward to 2014, when Reidbord meets with officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment in Google’s offices overlooking the bustling square. Impressed by what they saw, HUD officials awarded a $30-million Choice Neighborhoods Grant to the city for low- and mixed-income housing and development in Larimer. While it took a village to win the federal largess, many agree that Walnut Capital’s big bet on the East End — led by Reidbord and CEO Gregg Perelman — sparked its revitalization. Bakery Square 2.0 adds expanded space for Google and tech company Autodesk; meanwhile, Walnut Capital also is moving into Uptown with Flats on Fifth. But the really big question: Will Reidbord make a bid for the Pens?  ◆


24. Aradhna Oliphant
President & CEO, Leadership Pittsburgh

Oliphant has strong ties to Pennsylvania power brokers — she’s married to The Heinz Endowments’ prez Grant Oliphant (No. 1) and served on the transition team for Gov. Tom Wolf (No. 31) — but she’s also in the midst of grooming a new, more diverse group of leaders with her invitation-only Unboxed events, mentoring initiatives for veterans and Leadership Pittsburgh. The 10-month training program provides an essential network between graduates and connects them with top political, business and philanthropic players. The region’s power list will look different in 15 years — and Aradhna Oliphant will be a big reason why.  ◆


25. William Generett Jr.
President & CEO, Urban Innovation21

As the chief executive of Urban Innovation21, Generett is using the public-private partnership to bridge the gap between today’s haves and have-nots — the soaring tech industry and struggling underserved communities. So far, that’s included such projects as creating an innovation program in Homewood, partnering with the Reed Smith LLP law firm to provide legal advice to entrepreneurs, college internship programs and contributing to Hill District development. One sign of how well he’s doing? Last fall, he was appointed to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship to help advise the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on these types of issues.  ◆

"Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power." Lucius Annaeus Seneca

26. Rich Harshman
Chairman, President and CEO, Allegheny Technologies

The CEO of the specialty metals manufacturer is the consummate mixer, circulating among the city’s well-connected power players. Harshman’s network stems from positions on high-profile local boards, including chair-elect of the board of Robert Morris University (his alma mater, where he was the top giver in a $40 million capital campaign for the School of Business), the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Duquesne Club; in November, he will succeed Morgan O’Brien (No. 18) as chair of the Allegheny Conference. This past year, ATI, which employs 9,000 people worldwide, completed an ambitious $1.2 billion state-of-the art hot-rolling mill in Harrison Township.  ◆

27. Bill Strickland
President & CEO, Manchester Bidwell Corp.

By the sheer power of his charisma and work ethic, social entrepreneur Strickland has helped to re-imagine education on the North Side with the Manchester-Bidwell Corporation, which simultaneously offers arts programs for disadvantaged children and vocational training programs in areas such as culinary arts and medicine-related fields for adults. Strickland’s work has earned a MacArthur “Genius” grant, and MBC has served as a model for similar centers in Cleveland, New Haven, Conn., and Buffalo, N.Y.  ◆

28. Maxwell King
President & CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation

After nearly a decade away, King was lured back to the city in September 2014 to run The Pittsburgh Foundation, which draws power from its hundreds of donors and individual funds. While he’s still learning some of the new faces around town, King can draw on his experience and connections from his days running both the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Heinz Endowments, as well as The Pittsburgh Foundation’s formidable reputation — it boasts $1 billion in assets and is the 13th-largest community foundation in the country.  ◆

29. Andrew W. Moore
Dean, School of Computer Science, CMU

After Google failed to lure Moore from CMU to Silicon Valley, the search-engine giant came to him, opening up a Pittsburgh office with him as director in 2006. During his tenure, Moore grew the office to more than 275 employees and led projects in ad targeting, display ads, AdSense and fraud protection. Google’s presence has helped the region to become a brain hub that attracts and retains talent. “It’s a huge draw for out-of-town investors, entrepreneurs and CEOs who want the talent his department turns out,” says one observer. In 2014, Moore returned to CMU as the new dean of the School of Computer Science, where he’s overseeing the education of the next generation of tech whiz kids.  ◆

30. David Holmberg
President & CEO, Highmark Health

When Holmberg assumed control of Highmark in spring 2014 — its third CEO in as many years — he stepped into the sights of UPMC, which was refusing to sign a new contract that would allow Highmark patients in-network access to UPMC docs. More than a year later, the dispute remains unresolved. Holmberg, who’s been an executive with Highmark since 2007— previously, he ran several dental and vision insurance companies — has let UPMC’s Jeffrey Romoff (No. 2) appear to be the Big Healthcare Bully, positioning Highmark in the media as the entity that is willing to negotiate to achieve the best healthcare for its patients. It’s a wise move, but really, it’s the only one that Holmberg has — to a large extent, UPMC, as the bigger system, still calls the shots, leaving Holmberg dependent on help from government regulators.  ◆

Next: 50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh #31-40


31. Tom Wolf
Governor, Pennsylvania

Almost a year after being elected, the impact of the Guv in western Pennsylvania remains light. Despite trouncing former Gov. Tom Corbett by nearly 10 points, Wolf has struggled to find common ground — or even to pass a budget! — with the Republican-controlled legislature. Still, this summer, his approval rating of 47 percent was floating high above that of the legislature (a sad 28 percent), and he has two power cards in his pocket: He maintains he has the muscle to force a much-needed UPMC and Highmark reconciliation, and he is positioned to determine the future of liquor sales in Pennsylvania.  ◆

32. Jeff Broadhurst
President and CEO, President and CEO, Eat'n Park Hospitality Group

The head of the Broadhurst family business has not been content with coasting on Eat’n Park’s success. In recent years, the company has expanded to include highly visible restaurants such as The Porch at Schenley and Six Penn Kitchen and younger-skewing concepts such as Hello Bistro and downtown’s Delicious Raw Juice Bar. Add to that the company’s senior living and hospital services (through the Cura Hospitality brand, acquired in 1999) and work in corporate and college kitchens (through its own Parkhurst Dining brand), and there may be no one in the region who feeds more people on a daily basis than Broadhurst. That success brings the freedom to foster initiatives such as the FarmSource program, which annually purchases millions of dollars worth of goods from local farms — making Eat’n Park Hospitality a sustaining force for many local growers.  ◆

33. DennIs Yablonsky
CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Yablonsky’s role as a regional influencer stems from his ties to the region’s economy. Having started in tech, he founded the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse (now the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse) and was among the first to promote the region as a flourishing hub for technology. His New Economy perspective intrigued then-Gov. Ed Rendell who hired him as secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development in 2003, giving him a back door to power players at the state level. While some observers say the Allegheny Conference’s influence has ebbed in recent years, Yablonsky has had wins, including the 2013 passage of Act 89, a major transportation funding bill which sets billions aside for infrastructure improvements in the region — $238 million for 86 local projects in 2014 alone. In the coming year, observers predict the conference will gain momentum, thanks to strong board leadership and a focus on attracting and retaining STEM talent in the region.  ◆

34. Gregg Behr
Executive Director, Grable Foundation

There are few young philanthropic leaders in the city as respected as Behr, who joined the education-focused Grable Foundation in 2006 following a four-year tenure as the president of the Forbes Fund. He’s one of the main forces behind the Pittsburgh Public School’s STEAM efforts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), Kidsburgh (an online resource for all things children) and the Remake Learning Network (a partnership of 200 schools, museums, nonprofits and businesses that provides new learning opportunities for kids). Another sign of his growing reputation: West Virginia University’s College of Education and Human Services selected him to deliver its commencement speech this past May.  ◆

35. Jesse Schell
Founder & CEO, Schell Games

When he talks, the gaming industry listens. Schell is a former director at Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio, and now serves as a professor at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center, as well as heading a world-class gaming company based in an expansive, cool waterfront space in Station Square. Schell is leading the charge in educational gaming, betting on the potential of virtual and augmented reality gaming. “If we had more people like Jesse Schell, Pittsburgh would be the next Silicon Valley,” says one local tech investor.  ◆

36. Paul Hennigan
President, Point Park University

Despite being a world-class city for education, downtown Pittsburgh never had much of a higher-ed reputation until Hennigan took over at Point Park in 2006. The city’s former chief financial officer has doubled down on the university as an urban campus and, in turn, leveraged government funding to rebuild a previously moribund stretch of downtown on the Boulevard of Allies.  ◆


37. Karen Wolk Feinstein
President & CEO, Jewish Healthcare Foundation

For the last 25 years, Feinstein has been at the forefront of a major social movement to reform health care in Pittsburgh and beyond through the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, Health Careers Future and Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. Her role (and trips to Washington, D.C.) helped to sway leaders all the way to the top to embrace national health care reform, and PRHI’s prescription for better care, payment and delivery of service lives on in the Affordable Care Act.  ◆

38. Saleem Ghubril
Executive Director, The Pittsburgh Promise

Since The Pittsburgh Promise was founded in 2008, Ghubril has been guiding the program, which provides scholarships of up to $30,000 over four years for Pittsburgh public school and charter students who maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 while attending Pennsylvania colleges. The Promise has drawn criticism of late for failing to reach enough minority students — many of those students, unfortunately, have GPAs that do not hit the mark required for the program — but blaming Ghubril’s organization for a lack of student achievement is unfair. Few organizations are having a larger impact on the lives of young people, and the Promise helps to differentiate both the city and region.  ◆


39. Leo Gerard & Gabe Morgan
International President, United Steelworkers of America / Vice President; Pittsburgh Director, State Employees International Union 32BJ

In a city that once stood on the front lines of the national labor movement, Gerard and Morgan represent the old and the new of local unions as workers’ rights are once again a topic of public debate. Gerard, a member of the AFL-CIO’s executive committee who has been active in that organization for years, is wired nationally and locally, with tight ties to players such as Jim Rohr (No. 15), David Malone (No. 19) and David Morehouse (No. 21), while Morgan has been actively growing his union — no small task in today’s labor-unfriendly environment — by organizing janitors before moving onto security guards.  ◆

40. Bill Fuller
Corporate Chef, big Burrito Restaurant Group

The road to Pittsburgh’s booming, vibrant restaurant scene runs directly through big Burrito. That’s largely due to Fuller, who has served as the company’s corporate chef since 1997. The company’s five single-location restaurants — Casbah, Eleven, Kaya, Soba and Umi — are perennial favorites and fixtures on local best restaurant lists, while the company’s flagship, Mad Mex, packs customers into 13 locations from Columbus to Philadelphia. Numerous chefs who since have opened their own hit spots — Justin Severino, Chad Townsend and Kevin Sousa among them — cut their teeth under Fuller. And Fuller’s regular trips to explore foodie scenes in other cities provide a pipeline for new flavors and techniques to hit town.  ◆

Next: 50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh #41-50


41. Joel Adams
Founder & General Partner, Adams Capital Management

As the largest investment capital firm in Pittsburgh, the Sewickley-based investor has hauled in $815 million for early-stage information technology companies since its inception in 1994. Under Adams’ direction, the firm realigned its portfolio and now is focused on investing more in companies within rather than outside of the Pittsburgh region. Among them are Dynamics (next-generation credit cards), SnapRetail! (online marketing for retailers) and Tiversa (cyber-intelligence).  ◆

42. Scott Bricker
Executive Director, Bike Pittsburgh

Nobody was talking about cycling infrastructure in our hilly city when Bike Pittsburgh launched back in 2002. Today, thanks to Bricker’s leadership, biking is in the news — the good type of news — regularly. Consider, for example, just in 2015: Peduto announced a bike-friendly “Complete Streets” executive order, the city held three popular Open Streets events on Penn Avenue and Butler Street, and the sparkling, new Healthy Ride bike-share program launched. Major credit goes to Bricker and his organization for changing the conversation.  ◆

43. Robert Hurley
Director of Economic Development, Allegheny County

Hurley’s been immersed in economic development for years — he held previous roles with the city, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh Technology Council — so it’s no surprise that Rich Fitzgerald tapped him to run that department for the county. He also plays a key area role as the chairman of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which finally has joined the 21st century with such technology as its smart card and bus-tracker systems.  ◆

44. Mike Doyle
Congressman, U.S. House of Representatives

Doyle has represented Pittsburgh and portions of the southeastern suburbs for more than two decades, and he remains the region’s pipeline to U.S. government; lately, he’s also been a key part of the Democratic city-county-federal triumvirate with Peduto and Fitzgerald. Whenever he decides to retire, he’ll be the kingmaker for a congressional seat that’s a lock for any Democrat with a pulse.  ◆

45. Dawn Keezer
Director, Pittsburgh Film Office

Few individuals can shut down a Pittsburgh street as easily as Keezer can. During 21 years at the helm of the Pittsburgh Film Office, she’s brought roughly 100 film and television productions to town, converting Pittsburgh from an occasional big-screen curiosity (“Sudden Death,” anyone?) to the often-busy Hollywood on the Mon. In Los Angeles, that’s meant tirelessly advocating for Pittsburgh’s ability to meet studio needs; in Harrisburg, she’s ensured that the Film Production Tax Credit remains available.  ◆

"I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I am interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

46. Andrew McCutchen
Center Fielder, Pittsburgh Pirates

When former Pirates catcher Michael McKenry tweeted a request that Buccos fans wear black to the 2013 Wild Card showdown with the Cincinnati Reds, few took notice. When McCutchen retweeted McKenry and added a hashtag — #PNCBLACKOUT — 40,000 people showed up for the game garbed in black shirts. Among Pittsburgh athletes, McCutchen is singularly invested in his team’s bond with its fans; perhaps that’s why ’Burghers have embraced him like no other competitor in town.  ◆

47. Patrice Matamoros
CEO, Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc.

It’s not just that Matamoros shepherded the annual race back from near-oblivion (a five-year hiatus from 2004-2008). And it’s not simply that she worked to ensure the marathon’s long-term viability via a key sponsorship deal with Dick’s Sporting Goods. More than the simple facts of the marathon’s existence, Matamoros’ impact can be witnessed in how big the race has become since its return; a full weekend of events includes races for kids and pets, a fitness expo and much more, and racers come from far and wide to compete. She didn’t just resurrect the race — she made it better than ever.  ◆

48. Jay Costa
Minority Leader, Senate of Pennsylvania

Despite widespread voter unhappiness with the state legislature, in 2014 the Costa-led Democrats were unable to dislodge the Republicans from the state Senate, which they’ve controlled for more than 20 years. Still, Costa — who represents a good portion of eastern Allegheny County, including parts of the East End — is an important figure, in no small part because he’s a member of his politically wired family, which includes brothers Guy (Peduto’s operations manager and former city Public Works Director) and Paul (state representative for District 34), as well as cousin Dom (a Pittsburgh Police veteran and former chief, now a state rep for District 21).  ◆

49. Audrey Russo
President & CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council

A forward-looking thinker, Russo is flexing her muscle with a new venture capital fund while pushing the 1,400-member trade organization beyond its comfort zone, most recently with FortyX80. That new nonprofit group whisks local entrepreneurs to places such as Silicon Valley and New York City, connecting them with potential investors with the goal of bringing money and people to the region. PTC continues to feed the innovation machine through expanding venues such as the annual CREate (formerly DATA), a three-day SXSW-style program of salons and speakers.  ◆

50. Andy Masich
President & CEO, Sen. John Heinz History Center; Chairman, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

The Sen. John Heinz History Center’s Museum Conservation Center, which opened in September 2014, is the latest in a series of initiatives and programs added during Masich’s tenure. Deals with organizations ranging from the Smithsonian Institution to the NFL Hall of Fame and Museum have brought world-class exhibits to the history center — the largest history museum in Pennsylvania — and a growing roster of signature events such as Hometown-Homegrown and Vintage Pittsburgh have brought thousands of additional visitors. Simultaneously, Masich has lobbied at the state level for the PHMC, which distributes grants to smaller history organizations across the commonwealth and heads statewide programs such as the ongoing Pennsylvania Civil War 150 commemorations.  ◆


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