Wasiullah Mohamed

“Leah’s company has created one of the most effective and inspiring solutions to combat food waste and hunger in the United States,” says one nominator.

“By 2016, 412 Food Rescue had eliminated all emergency calls for food within the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. That is 20,000 low-income residents. By 2018, 412 Food Rescue had spread to three other cities, including the nation’s ‘tech capital,’ San Francisco. By 2019, it has already rescued 6 million pounds of food and growing faster every day. It is the most innovative nonprofit, the fastest growing, the standard by which many hold themselves. IN JUST FOUR YEARS. She is a charismatic, relentless and resilient innovator. We cannot imagine what Leah can do in 25 years.”

Christine Mondor.

Christine Mondor, Principal, evolveEA and Chair, City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission

“Christine has been a thoughtful local leader in promoting and implementing sustainable and equitable development in Pittsburgh. Her firm has guided the green design process of many of the city’s first and greenest buildings and has led the region’s first ecodistrict planning efforts for neighborhood-scale sustainability,” wrote a nominator.

“Christine continues to reshape the architecture and planning professions as cities adapt to achieve greater economic and climate resiliency as well as social equity. For this, she was recently recognized as a 2019 Fellow — the highest honor for members of the American Institute of Architects and is also receiving a national award from the American Planning Association this year recognizing the Breathe Easy Millvale Air Quality Plan. … Her work has been essential for enabling a high quality of life for all people in Pittsburgh’s future.”

Casey Droege at SIX x ATE. Photo by Njaimeh Njie.

Casey Droege, Founder, Casey Droege Cultural Productions

“Casey Droege has totally transformed the art scene in Pittsburgh. She turned it upside down, creating opportunities for artists and making connections that didn’t exist before. She’s one of the smartest women I know. She makes things happen in a way that benefits many,” said one nominator.

“After years of working in academia and struggling on her own as a professional artist, she built Casey Droege Cultural Productions (CDCP), a mission-driven hybrid arts organization that utilizes a for-profit business structure to fulfill the needs of the local arts community,’ wrote another about CDCP, which recently announced a new creative space in Wilkinsburg.

“She is well-respected within the arts community for her dedication to providing opportunities to artists and fostering collaborative relationships with other organizations. Since launching in 2017, CDCP has delivered over $200,000 to local artists and cultivated an engaged audience of almost 14,000 people. Droege has forged a new path to a more sustainable arts economy in Pittsburgh, and her contributions go unmatched.”

Earl Buford.

Earl Buford, CEO of Partner4Work

“Earl Buford leads the public workforce development system for Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh, overseeing the administration of more than $22 million in funds to deliver innovative solutions that meet the current and future needs of businesses, workers, job seekers and young people. Mr. Buford’s depth of experience and leadership in workforce development will be essential to meeting the challenge of the workforce gap in the coming years,” wrote one nominator about Partner4Work‘s CEO.

“He is nationally recognized for the implementation and integration of a sector-based approach to workforce development. By directly engaging with business leaders, human resource professionals, and trade associations through industry advisory councils, the local workforce development system will be better equipped to respond to the current and anticipated labor market and economic development needs.”

Daniel Gilman. Photo by Larry Rippel.

Dan Gilman, Chief of Staff for Mayor Bill Peduto

“He’s Pittsburgh’s most talented, committed, energetic public servant, always responsive and responsible. His record speaks for itself,” one nominator wrote about Gilman.

“In his prior role as Councilman and his current role as COS to Mayor Peduto, Chief Gilman has been an incredible leader committed to creating a more welcoming city, building a stronger, more tech-savvy, and more responsive city government, and ensuring that city’s infrastructure responds to its growth. As Pittsburgh continues to grow, having leaders like Chief Gilman are integral.”

Rochelle Jackson.
Rochelle Jackson, Director of Femisphere at the Women and Girls Foundation
“Jackson is a single mother who at one time relied on public subsidies and has now dedicated her life to being an economic justice advocate for low-income moms. Over the next five years, she will be working with the city to develop a micro-loan fund to increase the capacity of non-traditional hour and overnight childcare in the city and working with the county to develop policy and technology solutions to make services more accessible to moms.
“She will also be working with the state to establish a Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance Fund, so that all Pennsylvania workers — men and women — can have access to paid time off when they need to take care of an elderly parent, new infant or other family members in need of critical care. Femisphere is focused on decreasing poverty rates for single mothers in Pittsburgh.”

Adam Kenney, Director of the Craft Business Accelerator at Bridgeway Capital

“Adam leads one of the most innovative accelerators in the country, and is helping create jobs for low-income individuals and strengthen low-income communities by helping creative businesses thrive,” wrote one nominator.

“Adam started and built the Craft Business Accelerator and Monmade into a booming and nationally recognized innovation connecting makers and small manufacturers to significant growth opportunities in the region’s real estate expansion. His dynamic vision and leadership bring new revenue and jobs to many small businesses in communities in danger of being left behind in the new Pittsburgh economy.”

Dr. Abhinav Humar.

Dr. Abhinav Humar, Chief, Division of Abdominal Transplantation Surgery, UPMC; Clinical Director, Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute; Thomas E. Starzl Professor in Transplantation Surgery

“If Pittsburgh is known for something, it’s known for transplant,” wrote one nominator about the history that has led to Humar’s work. “A pioneer in the development and refinement of new transplant procedures, Dr. Abhi Humar leads a team committed to reducing waiting list deaths through robust living-donor kidney and living-donor liver transplant programs, as well as other innovative methods to expand the donor pool. His team also partners with the University of Pittsburgh to advance basic science and clinically applied research, as well as to support the teaching and training of transplant specialists worldwide. Dr. Humar is respected by his peers and beloved by his patients. As the leader of our transplant program for more than a decade, he continues to push the limits of transplantation the same way Dr. Starzl did.”

Photo courtesy of Phipps Conservatory.

Richard Piacentini, President and CEO, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

“Richard has redefined the sustainable movement among museums and public gardens while illuminating the connections between human and environmental health. He has spearheaded an unprecedented expansion of Phipps’ programming to change the way that people interact with the natural world, communicating not only the beauty of nature but also the importance of taking responsibility for our relationship to it,” one of our readers said. “These pioneering additions to traditional garden offerings equip Phipps to address the issue of human impact on climate change, the most important environmental concern of our era.”

What makes his work so impactful? “A keen observer of interconnectivity in systems, Richard motivated his staff, board of directors, visitors and benefactors to join together and ensure that every Phipps initiative, amenity and program aligns with and promotes the highest environmentally-conscious standards. Phipps leverages its history as a platform to demonstrate that people, plants, health, planet and beauty are inextricably interconnected, and that sustainable action is the key to ensuring that these interconnections are sustained for future generations.”

Christiane Leach.

 Christiane Leach, Artist Relations Manager, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

“Christiane (aka Christiane D) is an accomplished artist who works with artists to make Pittsburgh a more vibrant and thriving city for artists and their patrons. She will meet with any artist, performer, musician, et al to help them succeed on their path. She has fought for more resources for artists like an emergency fund for stolen gear or studio fires,” a nominator wrote.

Christiane is responsible for coaching area artists in all aspects of arts-as-a-business: leadership, financial and professional opportunities, personal growth. She helps get important work in front of regional audiences who would otherwise never get to experience them while giving artists opportunities that can be career-changing.”

Lisa Scales.

Lisa Scales, President, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

“Under her leadership, the Food Bank has grown not only in the number of meals it provides but also with the development of a health and wellness program as well as having research and evaluation be a component of all that it does. Today, the Food Bank provides more than 34.5 million meals in the counties it serves,” one nominator wrote about Scales, a 2018 Athena Award recipient.

“Lisa also is a phenomenal mentor to countless women and serves on numerous boards in the community. The Food Bank has a bold goal to eliminate hunger in our region by 2025 — that means that it needs to provide an additional 20 million meals. With Lisa’s dogged determination, the Food Bank may just meet that goal and how amazing would that be?”

Christy Uffelman.

Christy Uffelman, President, Align Leadership

“Christy Uffelman challenges the status quo. She is an integral part of the Pittsburgh leadership community, not just by her accomplishments, but by the countless achievements she ignited in thousands of young Pittsburghers. Christy has facilitated peer learning and coached leaders not only throughout the Pittsburgh region, but across the nation, helping organizations to be on the leading edge of both creating a sustainable female talent pipeline and of engaging their young talent.”

Her passion began with a focus on women’s leadership development and Millennial/Gen-Z initiatives. In 2016, she asked the question, “What if instead of ‘fixing’ women, we instead focused on supporting men to become more inclusive leaders in a safe and non-shaming way?” When the #MeToo movement later hit, companies began to think about shifting from dated sexual harassment training to intentionally creating a space for men to learn together and grow.

“Pittsburgh companies were already ahead of the curve,” one nominator wrote, “thanks to Christy.” She is now working on a new program based on Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead content.

Rachel Filippini of GASP. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Rachel Filippini, Executive Director, GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution)

“Rachel has been dedicatedly fighting to protect our air and water for years and without fanfare — and deserves some,” wrote one nominator.

“She is at the forefront of the battle for clean air which many say is our region’s biggest challenge. She started at GASP in 2001 and took on the role of Executive Director in 2004. There she spearheaded new Allegheny County air quality legislation, increased GASP’s educational work in local communities and schools and kept air pollution issues in the public eye. Under her leadership, GASP has developed a comprehensive diesel program and the Athletes United for Healthy Air campaign.”

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.