Pennsylvania’s Influential Leaders Making a Difference in Their Communities

Pennsylvania's Influential Leaders Making a Difference in Their Communities

Meet the individuals driving positive change and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion across Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to a diverse and vibrant community of leaders who are dedicated to making a difference in their respective fields. From business executives to nonprofit directors, these individuals are working tirelessly to create a more inclusive and equitable society. In this article, we will highlight some of Pennsylvania’s most influential leaders who are driving change and making a positive impact in their communities.

Ken Anderson – Championing Diversity in Business

Ken Anderson, Vice President of Civic Impact and Engagement at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, is on a mission to create more opportunities for underrepresented groups. Through the Diverse Procurement Collaborative, Anderson has steered resources and opportunities towards businesses owned by women, minorities, and historically marginalized communities. Last year alone, the DPC yielded $400 million in spending with local Black- and brown-owned businesses, showcasing Anderson’s commitment to promoting diversity in business.

Crystal E. Ashby – Fostering Inclusion in Healthcare

Crystal E. Ashby, Executive Vice President and Chief People, DEI, and Communications Officer at Independence Blue Cross, is dedicated to creating an inclusive culture within the Philadelphia-based health insurer. Ashby’s efforts extend beyond communications and brand strategy, as she also focuses on recruitment and diversity initiatives. Her impact has been recognized by numerous organizations, including the National Diversity Council, which ranked her in its top 100 HR professionals list in 2021.

Tom Baker – Empowering Local Communities

Tom Baker, Executive Director of North Hills Community Outreach, is a champion for neighbors facing crisis, hardship, and poverty. Through his leadership, the community and interfaith-based organization provides vital programs and support to 3,500 local families annually. Baker’s commitment to youth empowerment is evident in his role as the founding chief program officer of Get Involved!, a Pittsburgh-area nonprofit focused on youth development. He also actively participates in the Hampton Township Rotary Club and the Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber Board.

Paul Bencivengo – Driving Tourism and Economic Development

Paul Bencivengo, President and COO of Visit Bucks County, is passionate about promoting tourism and economic development in the region. Bencivengo has championed initiatives like the Bucks County Ale Trail, targeting the county’s 8 million annual business and leisure travelers, generating a significant $1.2 billion in economic impact. His involvement with the United Way of Bucks County and the Bucks County Workforce and Economic Development Board further demonstrates his commitment to the community.

Lisa M. Boscola – Advocating for Centrist Politics

State Senator Lisa M. Boscola represents the region between Philadelphia and Scranton and is known for her centrist politics. Boscola’s affiliations with both the Democratic Party and Andrew Yang’s Forward Party highlight her commitment to finding common ground across the political spectrum. She has sponsored bipartisan bills on various issues, including women veterans’ healthcare, voting modernization, and expanding nondiscrimination protections. Boscola’s advocacy extends to referenda on reproductive choice and nondiscrimination, showcasing her dedication to ensuring equal rights for all.

Kelly Boulton – Leading Sustainability Efforts in Higher Education

Kelly Boulton, Director of Sustainability at Allegheny College, has led the institution to become one of only eight U.S. higher education institutions to achieve carbon neutrality in 2020. Boulton’s focus now centers on decarbonization through electrification and renewable energy generation. Additionally, she teaches and mentors as an instructor in the college’s environmental science and sustainability department, manages the campus organic garden, and advises student groups and government, fostering a culture of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

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Beth Brennan – Advocating for Nonprofits and Economic Development

Beth Brennan, Principal at Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, provides comprehensive advocacy and government relations counsel to nonprofits and businesses in Philadelphia and across the state. Brennan has secured major state funding for nonprofits like InnovatePGH, the Community College of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Zoo, and Public Health Management Corporation. Her successes also include the passage of state and city legislation and funding for economic development, capital projects, and mass transit.

Kim Brister – Promoting Diversity in Healthcare

Kim Brister, Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at WellSpan Health, is a veteran in human resources and healthcare. Brister coordinates WellSpan’s DEI education, including the Inclusion Champion Training program recognized with the Outstanding Training Initiative Award by Training Magazine. She established WellSpan’s DEI Steering Committee, promoted minority leadership, and hosted the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit, cultivating African American medical talent.

Tyrell Brown – Advocating for Marginalized Communities

Tyrell Brown, Executive Director of Galaei, a social justice nonprofit, is dedicated to serving marginalized communities, especially queer, transgender, indigenous, and people of color. Brown’s initiatives, such as “Philly Pride 365,” have broken attendance records and created inclusive programming for the LGBTQ+ community. Brown’s previous involvement with Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and Reclaim Philadelphia demonstrates his commitment to progressive politics and activism.

Christina Cassotis – Transforming Pittsburgh International Airport

Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, has presided over the transformation of Pittsburgh International Airport during her eight-year tenure. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cassotis has successfully recruited multiple domestic and international air carriers, prioritized accessibility and workforce development, and made the airport an industry leader in energy efficiency. Her leadership has positioned the airport as a key driver of economic growth and innovation in the region.

Sheila Christopher – Fighting Food Insecurity

Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, has been a prominent voice in the fight against food insecurity for over three decades. Christopher’s advocacy efforts have led to the passage of legislation and the establishment of coalitions that address hunger on a regional and statewide level. Her collaborations with organizations like DoorDash and prescription assistance programs have delivered millions of meals to low-income seniors and enrolled thousands of individuals in food assistance programs.

Jeffrey Cohen – Innovating Healthcare and Community Development

Jeffrey Cohen, Chief Physician Executive for Community Health and Innovation at Allegheny Health Network, is a urologist, cancer expert, and hospital executive with a passion for innovation. Cohen guided the repurposing of a closed hospital as a community economic and health development center, fostering collaboration and entrepreneurship. He is also co-chairing the Tree of Life Synagogue’s “Remember Renew Rebuild” Campaign, promoting healing and resilience in the wake of tragedy.

Shirlana Dash – Providing Emergency Housing and Support

Shirlana Dash, CEO of SELF Inc. (Strengthening and Empowering Lives and Futures), leads Philadelphia’s largest provider of emergency housing. Dash oversees the organization’s emergency and permanent supportive housing, homeless outreach team, and advocacy for vulnerable communities. Her recent accomplishments include the opening of SELF’s new headquarters and securing a $1 million federal grant for transitional housing for area youth.

Pat Edouard – Crisis Intervention and Youth Development

Pat Edouard, Director of the Community Crisis Intervention Program at the Institute for the Development of African American Youth, is dedicated to supporting Philadelphia’s youth. Edouard’s work includes crisis intervention, educational and workforce development roles, and youth development startups. His commitment to empowering young people is evident in his various roles with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Overbrook Arts and Environmental Center, and the Educational Services Program.

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Lorianne Feltz – Championing Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance

Lorianne Feltz, Executive Vice President for Claims and Customer Service at Erie Insurance, is a leader in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the insurance industry. Feltz’s mentorship and advocacy have contributed to Erie Insurance’s recognition for service excellence and its commitment to diversity. She also actively engages with the United Way and other community organizations to support the Erie community.

George Fernandez – Making a Difference in Multicultural Marketing

George Fernandez, President and CEO of Color & Culture, leads a multicultural marketing agency that helps brands make a difference. Fernandez’s expertise in Hispanic-targeted marketing and engagement strategy has resulted in significant impact, including the launch of the multicultural marketing agency and the development of affordable and sustainable housing projects. He also serves as a commissioner with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic and Latino Affairs.

Mia Fioravanti – Driving Community Outreach and Economic Inclusion

Mia Fioravanti, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Hilco Redevelopment Partners, prioritizes community outreach and economic inclusion. Fioravanti has coordinated community resource fairs and promoted career-connected learning programs that provide internships and career events for Philadelphia youth. Her commitment to corporate social responsibility is evident in her previous work with FS Investments and the FS Investments Foundation.

Daniel Fitzpatrick – Advocating for Workforce Development and Economic Growth

Daniel Fitzpatrick, President of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Citizens Financial Group, is a champion for workforce development and economic growth. Fitzpatrick’s leadership roles extend beyond the financial sector, as he actively engages with nonprofits and serves on the board of the United Way of Erie County. His commitment to the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia demonstrates his dedication to promoting economic growth and development.

EJay Fyke – Promoting Diversity and Workforce Training

EJay Fyke, Community Affairs Manager at Vesper Energy, is dedicated to promoting diversity and workforce training. Fyke’s involvement with Vesper Energy’s DEI Council demonstrates his commitment to establishing inclusive workplace cultures. He also serves as the chair and CEO of Energize Erie, a mentoring and workforce training program that supports juveniles transitioning out of the court system.

Michelle Gainey – Empowering Communities through the Arts

Michelle Gainey, Pittsburgh’s First Lady, co-founded the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Project to empower the city through the arts. Gainey launched initiatives like the Pittsburgh Paints project, showcasing local artists’ work in public buildings. Her involvement with the Allegheny nonprofit community, including positions with Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Catapult Greater Pittsburgh, highlights her dedication to workforce development and community empowerment.

Harold Goodman – Fighting for Civil Rights

Harold Goodman, an attorney at Raynes & Lawn, is known for his dedication to civil rights. Goodman specializes in class action lawsuits, defending the injured, defrauded, and racially marginalized. He has managed numerous cases that have led to landmark decisions, including the integration of the Pennsylvania State Police. Goodman’s commitment to civil rights has earned him recognition as a crusader for justice.

David Gould – Driving Racial Equity and Inclusion in Sports

David Gould, Chief Diversity and Impact Officer at the Philadelphia 76ers, ensures that the team makes a difference off the court. He leads the $20 million racial equity and inclusion commitment of the 76ers’ parent company, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. Gould’s initiatives, such as the Buy Black program, invest in local Black-owned businesses and promote economic empowerment. He is also involved in community organizations and initiatives that cultivate African American medical talent.

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Kathryn Hartzell – Advancing Technology and Sustainability

Kathryn Hartzell, Director of Technology and Innovation Management at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, is at the forefront of advancing technology and sustainability in transportation. Hartzell oversees the commission’s technology department, focusing on innovation, sustainability, and cost-saving initiatives. Her leadership has resulted in significant savings and the implementation of sustainable practices, such as the creation of a solar microgrid and energy-independent charging technology.

Art Haywood – Advocating for Vulnerable Communities

Art Haywood, State Senator, is a dedicated advocate for vulnerable communities. As the minority chair of the State Senate Human Services Committee, Haywood has introduced legislation addressing various issues, including lead in public school water and access to books for children. He has also been involved in the commonwealth’s pandemic response, advocating for vaccine access and mobile clinics to address healthcare inequities.

Maisha Howze – Empowering Women in the Workplace

Maisha Howze, owner of In Touch Consulting, is a social services veteran dedicated to empowering women in the workplace. Howze mentors young Pittsburgh women, volunteers with the Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery, and advocates for gender equality. Her recent book, “Hidden Gems: Black Women in the Workplace,” highlights the experiences and contributions of Black women in professional settings.

Teresa Hunter-Pettersen – Promoting Diversity in Medical Education

Teresa Hunter-Pettersen, Associate Professor of Medical Education and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, is dedicated to promoting diversity in medical education. Hunter-Pettersen leads efforts to create inclusive environments within LECOM’s educational and clinical settings. Her research on Type 2 diabetes and her commitment to promoting health equity highlight her dedication to addressing health disparities.

Keith Jack – Driving Sustainability in Transportation

Keith Jack, Director of Facilities Operations at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, is a leader in driving sustainability in transportation. Jack has championed initiatives that have made the commission an industry leader in energy efficiency, including the creation of a solar microgrid and the implementation of energy-independent charging technology. His commitment to sustainability has earned recognition from various organizations.

Brian Jackson – Advocating for Economic Development and Community Well-being

Brian Jackson, Chair of McNees Wallace & Nurick, is a leader in advocating for economic development and community well-being. Jackson’s leadership roles extend beyond the legal sector, as he actively engages with the United Way of the Capital Region and serves as co-chair of the Team Pennsylvania Foundation. His commitment to community development and economic growth is evident in his various roles within the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.


Pennsylvania is fortunate to have a diverse group of leaders who are committed to driving positive change and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. From business executives to nonprofit directors, these individuals are making a difference in their communities through their innovative approaches, advocacy, and dedication to social impact. Their collective efforts are shaping a more inclusive and equitable Pennsylvania for all its residents.