PGN’s Power List: A snapshot of out Philadelphians who influence, impact or otherwise shape the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection and its surrounding environs — its corporations, government, nonprofits and academic institutions.
It’s often said that gays have power. Though veracity of that across the board is debatable, it’s certainly true for those on this list. For more about the criteria, see the editorial on page 10.
Dr. Donald Schwarz
City of Philadelphia
Health commissioner and deputy mayor for health and opportunity
Dr. Schwarz was appointed to head the city’s health department in 2008 after a career in pediatric medicine.
Schwarz, 55, manages a $2.1-billion budget and has direct supervision over about a dozen employees.
Schwarz said that “maintaining services for the most vulnerable during the recession” has been his greatest accomplishment — as well as a “huge and constant” challenge — in both of his city positions.
Schwarz’s educational background includes a bachelor’s from Brown University, his medical degree and a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University, and a master’s in business administration from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He completed his residency training at Yale-New Haven Hospital and also did fellowships at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Schwarz was vice chair of the department of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine when he was tapped for city government, which he said was a transition, but a welcome one.
“The content in the current position wasn’t unfamiliar but there was a lot to learn and I’m still learning,” he said. “The management structure is a little bit different but the basic parts of management are similar most places you go — the planning, talking, getting input.”
One simple mantra has helped Schwarz navigate the ins and outs of his two positions in the last four years.
“Do the right thing,” he said. “When I’m up in the middle of the night trying to figure out what to do, the real question it comes down to is, What’s the right thing? Not what’s the smart thing to do politically or the thing that’s easiest. But what’s the right thing?”
City of Philadelphia
Deputy city solicitor
A practicing attorney for 20 years, Alston is now lending his legal expertise to the children and families involved with the city’s Department of Human Services.
As deputy city solicitor since 2008, Alston has litigated hundreds of cases, with a multitude of outcomes.
“Our overall goal is to enable children to be with families that are going to make them successful as adults,” he said. “That may end up in the termination of the parental rights of a mother and father who are drug-addicted and unable to care for their children or we may move children into foster care. We work to get children into a permanent, stable home and to strengthen families that are in crisis.”
Alston, who earned his law degree from Temple University, previously worked in the solicitor’s office on general defense, later was in private practice with a local firm and then branched out into his own general-practice work.
In working with families through DHS, Alston, 57, said he’s learned that empathy must play a role for those with a career focus like his.
“You can be professional but not completely detached from the work that we do,” he said. “You need to have some compassion overarching your professionalism. These people are going through a lot of pain and challenges so, even though you need to be a consummate professional, you still need compassion. Whatever we’re doing, we have to be thinking about the safety and the well-being of these children.”
University of the Arts
President and CEO
When he was named to the top spot of the University of the Arts in 2007, Buffington was one of a handful of out university leaders, and among the nation’s youngest.
Now 42, Buffington oversees all aspects of operations of the university, home to 2,100 students, 120 full-time and 350 part-time faculty, and about 300 full-time staff.
While he initially envisioned his career to be a fusion of teaching and scholarly work, Buffington — who earned his undergrad degree from Harvard and his master’s in American culture from University of Michigan — said that an initial job in university administration convinced him he could “make a significant impact on education through institutional leadership.”
When he came to the helm of the school, Buffington asked faculty to imagine the institution’s future, a question that sparked an “intensive academic-planning process” that the university is now in the midst of implementing.
Buffington noted that a career in university administration can take on an array of focuses — marketing, fundraising, financial management, technology and academic planning, to name a few — yet all require a basic commitment to education.
“The most important factor is caring passionately about the mission and believing deeply in the potential of the institution to change itself, to change the lives of students and to transform the fields in which it works,” he said.
Bread & Roses Community Fund
As head of Bread & Roses Community Fund, Cook is tasked with guiding an agency that has provided over $10 million in grants to social-justice causes throughout the Delaware Valley.
Cook, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Temple University and master’s degrees in social science and law and social policy from Bryn Mawr College, came to the helm of the agency in 2007.
Cook oversees the organization’s fundraising, programming and grantmaking initiatives. Bread & Roses distributes about $220,000 annually through funding streams and scholarships and offers technical assistance to an array of local organizations, valued at an additional $150,000 a year.
Cook, 40, directs a staff of three and manages an annual budget of $500,000.
The organization recently wrapped up a year-long planning process that Cook said stands out as one of the agency’s most successful efforts in recent years. Bread & Roses conducted focus groups, interviews and two town-hall meetings that generated input from about 400 people, including grantees and supporters.
“This was a really incredible process,” she said. “What I’m most proud of in my work at Bread & Roses is having led the organization through a strategic visioning process that encouraged our founders and stakeholders to reinvent a 35-year-old organization. As a result of our re-visioning, Bread & Roses is poised to lead strategic change in the Delaware Valley by supporting community groups working to transform our society into one that is fair, equitable and just.”
Cook said her career has been guided by some simple yet sage career advice.
“Stay true to yourself. Honor your values. And do your homework.”
Vice president of government affairs
As the VP of government affairs for the cable gian, Klayton Fennell fuses his background in both the legal and technology fields.
Fennell joined the Comcast team in 2001, working out of Florida for a number of years before coming to Philadelphia, where he is now charged with “supporting government-affairs folks across the nation as they work with local and state regulators and communities as we roll out our services and products,” he said. Fennell and his colleagues also provide strategic counsel to the company’s business and operations teams.
Fennell, 41, came to Comcast after serving as executive director of planning and administration for TESS Communications. He earned his bachelor’s in political science from Jacksonville University and his law degree from Florida State University School of Law.
One of his most notable accomplishments occurred in his first year with Comcast.
“I shepherded the AT&T broadband acquisition through the regulatory process at the local and state levels,” he said. “It was the largest cable acquisition in American history.”
Fennell serves on the company’s Internal Diversity Council and is an Executive Champion in its new LGBT employee group.
He noted that “consensus-building” in the workplace is one of the toughest challenges he has faced in his field.
“You have to make sure everyone understands our external pressure points and how we respond to those so we can efficiently get our products and services out there,” he said.
However, as an employee of one of the world’s leading communication companies, Fennell said he’s learned that “there’s no such thing as over-communication.”
Dr. Marla Gold
Drexel University School of Public Health
Dr. Gold took the helm of Drexel University’s School of Public Health in 2002 and has helped it grow from a fledgling program, whose parent corporation had a few years previously declared bankruptcy, to an internationally renowned school.
In the past 10 years, the school’s enrollment has grown exponentially to nearly 500 students — who are participating in degree and certificate programs that range from undergraduate to post-doctoral. The school employs about 140 people, and Gold manages an annual budget of $20 million.
“Being here to oversee our growth into this gem of a school of public health in both the Philadelphia region and the nation has been incredible,” she said. “We’re now a research powerhouse, a school that has authentic partnerships with the community, and we stay true to our core of focusing on health disparities and social-justice issues.”
Gold oversees Drexel’s Autism Research Institute and was instrumental in launching the school’s Program for LGBT Health.
Gold, 55, earned her doctorate of medicine from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She worked as an internist before she became assistant health commissioner for Infectious Disease Control in the Philadelphia Public Health Department in the early ’90s.
Gold also founded Drexel College of Medicine’s Partnership Comprehensive Care Practice, focused on HIV services, and co-founded Philadelphia Family Pride.
In her career, Gold said, she’s come to value the contributions of individuals.
“It’s all about relationships,” she said. “In every position I’ve had, I try to be aware that the people I work with are first and foremost people. They bring to the workplace the whole context of their lives, and I think you need an understanding of that before you can have a vision and really lead.”
Senior vice president and director of store operations
Grimmer has been in the banking industry since he was a teen, working his way up from teller to now overseeing operations at 1,300 TD Bank branches.
As senior vice president and director of store operations at TD, Grimmer ensures that the “financial integrity and operational excellence” in all of the bank’s stores, from Maine to Florida is “sound and set.”
“The most important thing is that we set the tone for how the stores operate on a daily basis, with our focus toward the customer experience, the employee experience and shareholder value,” he said.
Grimmer, 50, got his start at former Philadelphia banking system PSFS as a teller straight out of high school, and at nights pursued his bachelor’s degree from Holy Family University. Throughout the 1990s he served as vice president of bank operations at Mellon Bank and joined TD in 2000 in the bank operations department before moving into his current position in 2005.
He now directs a team of 160 employees.
“I want to have an impact on all of our employees as a role model but particularly on those who identify as LGBTA,” he said. “I am out at work and, as an executive, I want that to show them that TD does value diversity and the idea of bringing your whole self to work. I want our employees to be comfortable in their own skin.”
Grimmer said he tries to use his example to communicate several lessons he’s learned throughout his career in banking.
“You have to be passionate about what you do. People can recognize that, and you want other people to be passionate as well, so that’s really important. And you can’t take yourself too seriously. We’re in a human-services business and by showing our human elements, you can make other people comfortable. And you have to remember where you came from; it keeps you humble.”
PNC Wealth Management
Vice president and senior investment advisor
Huting taps into his extensive finance background to assist others in protecting their finances through his role at PNC.
In the position since 2000, Huting develops and manages portfolios of individual securities as well as mutual-funds products for individual advisory, trust and guardianship clients. Huting, who earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and finances from the University of Maryland and his master’s in finance from Drexel University, manages a staff of seven.
Prior to joining PNC, Huting led a group of portfolio managers at Vanguard Group, which provides financial assistance to institutional clients.
Huting, 49, also runs the local chapter of the company’s Employee Business Resource Group that provides resources and outreach for LGBTs and allies, and serves on the national leadership team for PNC’s diversity efforts.
Huting said his commitment to being open about his full identity in the workplace has served him well.
“Being out since literally the first week of work here has led to a lot of accomplishments, a lot of leadership opportunities and the ability to change a lot of hearts and minds,” he said.
An adjunct professor of finance in Villanova University’s College of Commerce and Finance, Huting said he has found that success in the finance world is contingent upon two basic factors.
“You have to have a high level of competence and you have to be honest,” he said.
Principal in retail investor group
Following a career that included time as an attorney and as a nonprofit executive, Martinez is now a leader in one of the world’s largest mutual-fund companies.
As a principal in Vanguard’s Retail Investor Group, Martinez is tasked with leading a business group “dedicated to providing outstanding service and investment guidance” to over 5-million direct investors.
“We are unique in the industry in that we are client-owned, and this drives our powerful low-cost, client-focused investing and business philosophy,” Martinez said of her company, which she joined in 2008.
Martinez has six employees who report directly to her and assists in leading the 500-plus investment professionals.
Martinez, 49, said her team has made great strides in easing the investment process for their clients.
“I am proud of our practice to shape our strategy by listening and responding to our clients’ voices, and by engaging our crew at all levels in the process of improving our business,” she said.
Prior to Vanguard, Martinez served in a number of other local leadership positions — including as CEO of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, executive director of Congreso de Latinos Unidos and managing attorney at Community Legal Services.
While her career has been varied, she said all her positions were guided by two principles.
“Make sure I am doing something I love, and give 100 percent every single day,” she said. “You can never get complacent. Every day is an interview.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Ten years ago, Olshan switched her career focus back to where her passion lies — social services.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Temple University, Olshan spent about 14 years as vice president of several different national retail chains and went on to work for several years in an investment-services consulting group before joining BBBS in 2002.
“I wanted to do something more meaningful,” she said. “I have a lot of passion for equal rights and social justice and that’s what we do here. We’re about leveling the playing field for kids who may not have a chance.”
As CEO, Olshan, 58, manages a staff of 60 and an annual budget of $4.3 million.
Among her accomplishments in the last decade, Olshan supervised the creation of the Amachi program, which seeks to break the cycle of incarceration by introducing mentors to children whose parents are in jail. Founded in 2002, the program has since reached thousands of Philadelphia youth. Also founded under her direction was Beyond School Walls, which brings young people into local workplaces for direct mentoring. Twenty-two companies have since signed on as partners, and the program has engaged about 600 youth.
Both pioneering programs, however, have since garnered national attention and been replicated at BBBS chapters throughout the country, reaching an untold number of youth at risk.
Having a true investment in the mission of her organization has been key to her success, Olshan said.
“You have to be authentic,” she said. “You need to have a true passion for what you’re doing.”
Wells Fargo Community Banking
Senior vice president and Affluent Customer Segment leader for Pennsylvania-Delaware region
Pingree has held varying positions with Wells Fargo over the past decade and now directs the company’s regional efforts to identify, recruit and retain affluent customers.
Pingree’s role at the helm of the organization’s Affluent Customer Segment gives him oversight for 75 store-based private bankers and nearly 200 licensed personal bankers in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. He also serves as the liaison between Wells Fargo’s Community Banking and Wealth Management businesses.
Pingree, 36, previously worked for Wells Fargo in San Francisco and Salt Lake City, a position he attained after receiving his bachelor’s in finance from Brigham Young University in 2001.
When he arrived in Philadelphia, the company had recently acquired Wachovia, and Pingree helped navigate his staff through the subsequent transition.
“I think my biggest accomplishment here in Philadelphia has been empowering my team through a lot of the change and helping them to be successful through a very significant merger and integration,” he said.
The ability to build strong relationships has been key in his work at Wells Fargo, Pingree said.
“I need to be able to rely on strong partnerships, both internally and externally — in the Wells Fargo organization and also in the community — so I think that has been a very significant driver in my success and something I would always recommend to others,” he said.
Reading Terminal Market Association
As head of the Reading Terminal Market Association, Steinke runs one of the city’s most bustling attractions.
Last year, about 6.35 million, or 122,000 people per week, made their way through the aisles of the market, currently populated by about 80 merchants.
Steinke came aboard as GM in 2001 and directs nearly all aspects of the market’s operations — marketing, leasing, budgeting, tenant relations, customer relations — and supervises a staff of seven.
“I oversee the entire operations of the market, everything except running the stores themselves,” he said.
Steinke, 47, earned his bachelor’s degree in economic and business administration from Penn State University and previously worked as executive director of University City District and director of finance and administration at Center City District. He served on the Philadelphia Human Rights Campaign Dinner steering committee from 2004-08 and chaired the committee the final two years.
Steinke said he has worked hard to bring the market’s operations forward.
“What I’m most proud of is strengthening Reading Terminal Market’s visibility in both the local and national consciousness,” he said. “And strengthening the merchant base and attracting more visitors and customers to the market.”
The market is enjoying a more-than 25-percent increase in visitor flow since 2003, the first year it began tracking visitor counts.
Practicing effective communication has proven vital in his position, he said.
“Listen and be cautious before jumping to conclusions,” he said. “You have to be deliberate.”
Beatriz “Bia” Vieira
The Philadelphia Foundation
Vice president for philanthropic services
The nation’s fourth-oldest community foundation disperses more than $20 million in grants each year, an effort managed by Beatriz “Bia” Vieira.
As vice president for philanthropic services, Vieira oversees the annual grantmaking process, which requires “assessing community needs and interests and creating innovative strategies for discretionary grantmaking and grants from our donors.”
Vieira, who supervisors three managers and one administrative staff member, also works with donors to advise them on their philanthropic decisions in creating and managing funds that suit their interests.
Vieira, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and anthropology and a master’s in literature from Temple University, came to the Foundation in 2008 as its first vice president of community impact and took on the current position, which was also new to the organization, in 2010.
“One of the amazing things about the Foundation is that when there was the economic downturn in 2008, we were able to respond to the emergency needs of the community and of nonprofit organizations in a very nimble and quick way,” she said.
In 2009 and 2010, the Foundation partnered with individual donors to create a fund that generated about $600,000 to organizations providing basic-needs services to communities across the five-county area.
Vieira, the former executive director of Lutheran Settlement House, said she’s learned that being open to the ideas of others is integral in the workplace.
“It’s very basic but always good to be reminded of: Listen, listen carefully and continue to listen,” she said.