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November 2018

The shining moments in our lives may come and go with little recognition. We even have a phrase for the people who experience that: unsung heroes. Their accomplishments are no less significant because they receive no awards; in fact, their stories resonate with us when they are finally told.



I was never recognized as one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 Under 40. Odds are you weren’t either, although over the 20 years that we have been honoring people, 800 of you have been singled out for your achievements. I’m not arguing that “everyone should get a trophy,” but I do believe that more people deserve an award than ever get one.

The shining moments in our lives may come and go with little recognition. We even have a phrase for the people who experience that: unsung heroes. Their accomplishments are no less significant because they receive no awards; in fact, their stories resonate with us when they are finally told.

“Hidden Figures,” a book and award-winning movie, tells the story of three largely unknown African-American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — who worked behind the scenes on some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Alan Turing’s contribution during World War II to decrypt Nazi coded messages was told to acclaim in the biography “The Enigma” and then in the film “The Imitation Game.”

For others, significant moments come later in life. Ray Kroc was 52 when he launched McDonald’s. Sam Walton was 44 when he opened Walmart. Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” at 50. Fashion designer Vera Wang opened her first shop when she was 40. And Julia Child wrote her first cookbook when she was 50. 

Having won awards and lost awards, I know the highs and lows. I’ve also entered plenty of contests on behalf of writers whose work I admire and who I know deserve recognition. Sometimes they win and sometimes they don’t. When they win, the judges are clearly insightful, when they don’t ... well we all know how arbitrary contests can be.

Stories of outstanding Pittsburghers aren’t just found in the 40 Under 40 feature, but throughout this issue and all of the issues of Pittsburgh Magazine. There are many people who make Pittsburgh special and not all of them win awards or even get written about. In fact, we all have our “40 Under 40” moments and we need to celebrate them, even if nobody else does.

Brian Hyslop can be reached at ​bhyslop@pittsburghmagazine.com or 412/304-0921.

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