Power List

The 2023 Philadelphia Forty Under 40

Meet the next generation of rising stars in Philadelphia.

From left to right: Peter Merzbacher, LaDeshia Maxwell & Vaughn Ross

From left to right: Peter Merzbacher, LaDeshia Maxwell & Vaughn Ross Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

This year’s Philadelphia Forty Under 40 features a wider array of professions than ever, reflecting the myriad ways young Philadelphians are making an impact in their neighborhoods and throughout the region. These young achievers are politicians and strategists, attorneys and entrepreneurs – but also influencers in media, the arts, social and environmental advocacy and hospitality. Whether native Philadelphians or enamored transplants, they share a passion for the city, its people and the effort to shape its future.

The following profiles were written by Hilary Danailova.

Anthony Bellmon

State Representative
Anthony Bellmon / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Anthony Bellmon may be one of the youngest members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, but you wouldn't know it from his resume. In addition to previous work in the education field, including a stint as the dean of students at a K-8 school in Trenton, he spent eight years with U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, working his way up from constituent services to become Boyle's senior adviser on Capitol Hill.

In fact, it was Boyle who recommended that Bellmon run to represent Olney and Northeast Philadelphia in the state House. It wasn’t his first elected office: Bellmon was his elementary school’s president and served in student government all the way to George Washington University, where he studied political science as a first-generation student. 

Galvanized by volunteering on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Bellmon learned politics firsthand as a local committee person before joining Boyle’s team. Working on behalf of immigrant constituents, he explained, “allowed me to see firsthand what government can do for regular people, and how it can change lives.”

Just 33, the Philadelphia native already feels that meaningful change. Having previously helped elect America’s first Black female vice president as the Biden- Harris campaign’s Southeast Pennsylvania political director, Bellmon recently cast one of his first House votes for Joanna McClinton as Pennsylvania’s first Black female speaker. “That’s when I thought, ‘You’re here, Anthony. This is serious,’” he recalled. “‘We’re making history already.’”

Dan Berkowitz

Chief Strategy Officer, Neubauer Family Foundation
Dan Berkowitz / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

As chief strategy officer for the Neubauer Family Foundation, Dan Berkowitz spearheads research, publishes data and partners with organizations tackling Philadelphia’s most enduring problems, including violence and addiction. 

Since joining Neubauer in 2017, Berkowitz has developed $15 million of new investments in K-12 education, public safety and community development – like a partnership to provide housing and other services for the drug-battered Kensington neighborhood. Berkowitz has also worked on public school arts funding and collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania and Econsult Solutions on a groundbreaking data collection effort around juvenile justice outcomes.

An economics major at Northwestern, Berkowitz was drawn into social justice after attending a concert of Venezuela’s fabled El Sistema program, which aims to empower disadvantaged youth through classical music. Berkowitz imported El Sistema’s approach to Los Angeles and then Philadelphia, working with both cities’ marquee orchestras on programming for underserved communities.

While his focus has shifted to addressing gun violence, Berkowitz says he’s always asked fundamental questions like: “Who are the stakeholders, what are the needs, how are resources allocated – and how can we change the system?” “What drives me is that Philadelphia has so much opportunity,” he added. “It’s home, so we’ve got to do better.”

Catherine Bird

Chief Administrative and Diversity Officer, Health Partners Plans
Catherine Bird / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Cat Bird has nearly 15 years of experience in leading human resources operations, primarily in the health care field. At Health Partners Plans, where she is chief administrative and diversity officer, Bird’s focus on outcomes has resulted in enhanced recruiting, increased senior-level diversity and reduced administrative costs.

She also helped establish the HPP Culture Council, which supports DEI efforts, and the Core Value recognition program, linking performance reviews to metrics that reflect Health Partners Plans' updated mission and vision. On the branding side, Bird guided a marketing strategy that supported the company’s Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.

Prior to joining Health Partners in 2020, Bird was vice president of people and culture at Active Day, where she led integration strategies for several large, multi-state acquisitions and expansions. She also headed human resources and supported DEI initiatives at DaVita.

Four years ago, Bird founded PowerClass Life, an organization that empowers women leaders “by teaching the importance of freedom, equality, self-worth and education,” as she put it. Having been mentored throughout her career by influential women, Bird makes a point of paying it forward through coaching and mentoring with Girls on the Run Philadelphia, Girl Scouts of Southeastern PA and the Health Partners Foundation.

Brian Boyle

Partner, DLA Piper
Brian Boyle / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

What do you do if you’re torn between careers in law and business? If you’re Brian Boyle, you become an attorney specializing in finance – and land in one of the most exciting, dynamic areas of contemporary legal practice.

“Modern antitrust law is pushing enforcement into new areas, and there’s a lot more hostility toward mergers and acquisitions,” explained Boyle, 37, a partner at DLA Piper. As an example, he cited the Federal Trade Commission’s recent efforts to restrict non-compete agreements: “So we’ve got a whole new set of challenges facing clients – but that gives us opportunities to be creative and to develop new legal concepts.”  

One of those novelties is DLA’s proprietary AI tool allowing clients to detect antitrust conduct. “We have the advantage of our global scale,” noted Boyle, who co-leads the firm’s AI implementation for the Americas. At the intersection of law, business and technology, he says, “I have on the one hand a very specialized practice, but also the opportunity to do different things every day.”

The New Jersey native worked for an investment firm after earning a political science degree at Loyola University Maryland. With encouragement from his boss, an attorney, Boyle earned both JD and MBA degrees from Villanova. “For most of my career, mergers and acquisitions were the realm of antitrust nerds,” he laughed. “Now they’re on the front page of The New York Times every day.”

Abbey Bryman

Abbey Bryman / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

You could say Abbey Bryman owes her criminal defense career to the U.S. Marine Corps. But the story is complicated.

Bryman, who is of counsel at Ciccarelli Law Offices and is in the process of launching a solo practice, was an aimless 18-year-old when she joined the military. The Marines gave her focus, discipline and skills – but sexual assaults were frequent, and she was bluntly told she’d need to sleep her way to a higher rank. “There was no support system. Everything was swept under the rug,” Bryman recalled.

Determined to advocate for victims, Bryman earned a law degree at Temple University. She fought military bureaucracy to receive veterans’ disability benefits for the PTSD stemming from her sexual trauma – and channeled that passion into VetLaw, the advocacy organization she co-founded. “Unfortunately, I correlate a corrupt military with a corrupt criminal justice system,” she explained.

After interning with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices, Bryman served as an assistant district attorney before joining Ciccarelli’s criminal law practice. She’s frequently defended veterans with addiction or mental illness – causes that hit close to home: Bryman struggled with addiction after leaving the military and has been sober for five years.

“My passion is people,” she said. “The Marine Corps taught me to keep my mouth shut. I kept my mouth shut for years. And now I can finally speak up.”

Flora Cardoni

Field Director, PennEnvironment
Flora Cardoni / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

“I love the natural world,” said Flora Cardoni. “I wonder sometimes if it’s because my name is Flora. I love watching the leaves on trees blow in the wind, hiking in nature, seeing wildflowers.”

Cardoni, 29, devotes herself to preserving nature’s bounty at PennEnvironment, where she is a field director. She’s known for rallying hundreds across the commonwealth for the organization’s annual Climate Action Lobby Day, the state’s largest environmental advocacy event. “People tell me they feel more hopeful afterwards – that working together, we can really achieve these climate solutions,” Cardoni said.

That sentiment animated Cardoni’s progressive Buffalo childhood, where her artist parents were active in political organizing. Children were warned not to swim in polluted Lake Erie, and neighbors attributed their asthma to a nearby coal plant. “It was absurd that private companies pollute our air and water, make people sick and profit off that destruction,” she said.

After earning a degree in environmental studies at Tufts University, Cardoni honed her grassroots organizing skills at Green Corps, leading a campaign against Iowa’s Dakota Access pipeline. Her work brought her to Pennsylvania, where she currently also serves on the governor’s Climate Change Advisory Committee. 

“We have good policies that are sitting on shelves, a lot of solutions that are at our fingertips already,” Cardoni noted. What’s needed now, she added, “is people coming together, making our voices heard.”

Steven Chintaman

Senior Associate, Bellevue Strategies
Steven Chintaman / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

When Bellevue Strategies clients need an inside track at City Hall, they call on Steven Chintaman. An attorney and senior associate with the government affairs firm, Chintaman serves as Bellevue’s lead for city relations, using his acumen and access to advocate for Philadelphia nonprofits.

Chintaman was drawn to politics while growing up in a Guyanese family in Bucks County. His interest was cemented during a college internship with then-U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, working on matters both local – like constituent services – as well as global, like handling delicate issues around the Arab Spring.

Former Philadelphia City Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown was another early mentor. “She told me, ‘If I had to do it all over again, I would go to law school. It’ll open doors for you,’“ remembered Chintaman. So he did, earning a JD from Rutgers. “That gave me the ability not just to understand how law is structured, but how to interpret it, which is a huge thing in city government,” he explained.

At Bellevue, Chintaman has expanded work on behalf of nonprofits like the Urban League of Philadelphia and helped small and minority businesses navigate pandemic government funding. He recently secured $4 million in state monies for an Upper Darby Township community center.

“I love that at Bellevue, we’re helping organizations that are committed to effectuating change in Philadelphia for the most vulnerable populations – and ensuring they have the ability to do so,” Chintaman affirmed.

Jacob Cooper

Partner and Managing Director, MSC
Jacob Cooper / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

From coffee shops to boutiques, movies to medical offices, Jacob Cooper is the man behind many a Philadelphia streetscape. Cooper is the managing director at MSC, where he is a partner in Philadelphia’s leading retail brokerage outfit by market share. In his 15 years with the firm, Cooper estimates he’s brokered more than 500 mostly ground-floor lease transactions – not bad for a man who stumbled into real estate after college.

Cooper, 38, still lives in the same Center City neighborhood where he grew up, having detoured west to study at the University of Pennsylvania. “I am a lover of all things Philadelphia,” he explained. “The beauty of my job is that it combines business and the built environment with local relationships.”

Under his leadership, MSC is the exclusive retail agent for Penn and has also worked on large-scale student housing at Drexel University. Cooper is currently working on uCity square, a 15-acre West Philly development. And he’s particularly proud of his work revitalizing Walnut Street’s pandemic-battered commercial corridor, where MSC has brokered nearly 20 high-value leases since 2020.

His job is “a lot of fun,” Cooper noted. “Everybody loves shopping and eating and drinking. We contribute to the vibrancy and the development of Philadelphia.”

Eric Cortes

Senior Director of Social Media Strategy and Innovation, Visit Philadelphia
Eric Cortes / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

In his spare time, social media guru Eric Cortes enjoys the slow, exacting art of baking. That’s pretty much the opposite of his day job – navigating the fast-changing landscape of cyberspace and the epheral nature of the modern attention span.

“If you don’t catch people in that first second, you’ll never get them,” affirmed Cortes, who oversees social media strategy and innovation for Visit Philadelphia, the city’s official tourism agency.

Cortes, 39, was enchanted early with the power of narrative, from comic books to the vivid stories of his Colombia-born father. Armed with journalism and writing degrees, Cortes held communications and marketing roles on behalf of Telemundo and the Atlantic City Alliance.

In an earlier stint at Visit Philadelphia, Cortes landed the city on USA Today’s 2009 “Top Places for Hispanics” and was named 2011’s Hispanic Professional of the Year by the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In 2020, he hosted Instagram Live broadcasts with bilingual influencers to boost Hispanic participation in that year’s census – an effort that earned him recognition from Twitter. 

Even within the confines of sound bites, Cortes is “mindful of highlighting those untold stories in our neighborhoods” – like that of Dionicio Jimenez, the groundbreaking Mexico-born chef who was recently nominated for a James Beard Award. “There are so many people out there who never get to tell their story,” Cortes reflected.

Molly Crane

Partner, Blank Rome
Molly Crane / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

For business attorney Molly Crane, mergers and acquisitions “are like a giant puzzle, where you get your puzzle box and see what the end picture looks like.” Crane, a partner at Blank Rome, added that “then you have to figure out how to put all those pieces together to get that desired result.”

The daughter of New Jersey attorneys, Crane fell in love with the fast-paced, intellectually challenging world of mergers and acquisitions as a summer associate while at Georgetown Law School. But rather than head to San Francisco or New York – the conventional choices for a career in finance – Crane was determined to make her career in Philadelphia, where her undergraduate years at Penn were “meaningful and joyful.”

“In Philadelphia, we’ve got a much more robust and sophisticated framework nowadays,” she said of the city’s burgeoning investment and startup scenes. Crane plays an active role in that evolution: She was part of the inaugural cohort of the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies’ Next-Gen Leaders program, and holds leadership positions with the Association for Corporate Growth’s Philadelphia chapter.

At Blank Rome, Crane is proud of shepherding one private equity firm through eight different acquisitions before it sold for nearly a half-billion dollars. “It’s a privilege to be with your client from the beginning, building their business to a beautiful outcome,” she reflected. “That’s what brings me coming to work every day.”

Kristin DeBias

President and Co-Founder, Energetek
Kristin DeBias / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Kristin DeBias grew her energy brokerage startup, Energetek, using the same people skills she’d honed working at a pizza shop in high school. “My partner and I would drive from business to business, knock on the door, ask for the controller,” recalled DeBias. “Hopefully, they would give us 30 seconds of their time.”

Their approach paid off. Since launching in 2018, DeBias and her business partner have grown Energetek into a $1.9 million company with nearly 200 clients. “And we built it from the ground up, without investors,” DeBias noted. “I’m proud of that.

DeBias studied for a hotel and restaurant management degree from East Stroudsburg University, but went into sales after realizing the hospitality lifestyle wasn’t for her. She met her now-business partner working in commercial solar sales, “where we decided we could do this so much better ourselves,” she recalled.

Energetek serves as a middleman between energy suppliers and industrial clients, and also advises on sustainability planning. The company grew rapidly throughout the pandemic, acquiring a multinational metal scrapping client along the way.

“The most rewarding for me is building trusting relationships with my clients, who are now my friends,” DeBias said. “I feel obligated to do right by them. Going back to my restaurant days, my favorite thing was always the people.”

Elizabeth Felt

Vice President of Communications, The Enterprise Center
Elizabeth Felt / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Elizabeth Felt is an anthropologist who realized her calling lay outside academia. “I saw myself going to a meeting once a year, presenting to the five people in the world who cared about what I was doing,” recalled Felt, 39. “I realized I was happier being out in the world, talking to people.”

Talking is what Felt does as communications chief for the Enterprise Center, a nonprofit small business accelerator that works primarily with communities of color. After leaving her Ph.D. program at Temple a decade ago, she joined the organization as a community development associate through AmeriCorps, collaborating on a neighborhood plan for Walnut Hill.

More recently, Felt helped direct the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency’s Coronavirus Response and Relief Center, helping small businesses navigate the pandemic. Her work draws on a social consciousness honed during her childhood in the economically depressed Western Pennsylvania of the 1980s, as well as “my anthropological skills – designing questionnaires, talking to people in the neighborhood, surveying and looking at land use,” she noted. 

She’s currently focused on attracting greater investment for development projects, especially around the Enterprise Center’s West Philly neighborhood. “I fell in love with the entrepreneurial mission,” she reflected. “And I love being part of something with a substantive, lasting impact that’s representative of neighborhood voices.”

Aizaz Gill

Pennsylvania Policy Director, Business for America
Aizaz Gill / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

When Aizaz Gill organizes civics programming in Pennsylvania communities, he brings a keen appreciation for the liberties many Americans take for granted. “I come from a country where there’s limited freedom of speech,” said Gill, who was born into Pakistan’s beleaguered Catholic minority. “As an immigrant to this country, I want to continue having the rights and liberties we have.”

He furthers that goal as Pennsylvania policy director for Business for America, a corporate alliance dedicated to strengthening democracy and facilitating a healthy business climate. Gill’s enthusiasm for topics like Thomas Jefferson and the First Amendment are fairly palpable as he talks about organizing educational webinars, Civics Day events and other activities. 

Gill “got the political bug, as they say,” while volunteering on a campaign as a political science student at Chestnut Hill College. He spent six years working under then-Philadelphia Commissioner Al Schmidt (now acting secretary of the commonwealth) at the Philadelphia City Commissioners Office, hosting community events to educate citizens on a new voting system. 

In his Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood, Gill is a board member and president of the Burholme Town Watch and Civic Association. “A minority like me could never have advanced” so far in his home country, Gill reflected. “America has done more for me than any other country could have. So the American Dream is very real for me.”

Marcus Hall

Director of Workforce Operations, Philadelphia Works
Marcus Hall / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Marcus Hall grew up fascinated by superheroes. He didn’t know he’d grow up to become one himself.

Having triumphed over orphanhood and homelessness, Hall helps disadvantaged Philadelphians to find opportunities through Philadelphia Works, the city employment agency where he directs workforce operations. “I’m trying to alleviate the barriers that are naturally in people’s way,” explained Hall, 36. “The best thing about my job is the opportunity for systemic change.”

Raised in West Philly, Hall was 15 when he lost his mother to cancer; his father, who suffered from an opioid addiction, had long been absent. Hall nevertheless scored a full-tuition scholarship to Morehouse University, graduating magna cum laude in accounting. When a Wall Street job with Lehman Brothers disintegrated during the 2008 financial crisis, Hall drew on his mentoring experience to become the youngest-ever deputy director at New York City’s Department of Education.

Back in Philadelphia, Hall found his niche in adult education. At Philadelphia Works, he oversees a $50 million budget and partnerships like vocational skills training in collaboration with area halfway houses; he also teaches adult learners at several nonprofits.

Having earned an MBA from St. Joseph’s University, Hall is also a business owner and a mentor. “I’ve had a lot of money, I’ve had no money, I’ve had a stable home and no home at all,” he reflected. “My biggest strength is just my will.”

Christina Hayden

Chief Growth Officer, Public Health Management Corporation
Christina Hayden / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

The sprawling property at 4601 Market Street lay vacant, a metaphor for the blighted neighborhood. Now, under the leadership of Christina Hayden, the nonprofit Public Health Management Corporation has spearheaded the site’s redevelopment into a human services hub bustling with after-school, child welfare and mental health programs. 

Hayden, PHMC’s chief growth officer, has made the kind of public-health impact she once envisioned from practicing medicine. “I always wanted a socially minded career,” she noted. But after pre-med studies at Boston College and Drexel, this cardiologist’s daughter decided she “wanted to find a different way to serve.”

Hayden, 34, joined PHMC seven years ago and has since helped grow the agency’s revenue by $140 million. She’s done this primarily through strategic mergers and acquisitions, most notably with the Visiting Nurses Association of Greater Philadelphia and Flourtown-based Carson Valley Children’s Aid. 

In addition to 4601 Market, Hayden has launched new projects and lines of business for PHMC, which serves 350,000 clients annually. A particular highlight has been a partnership Hayden steered with Penn Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania and Independence Blue Cross to develop PHMC’s Cedar Public Health campus.

“Growing up, I was always raised to give back; my parents were always serving other people,” said Hayden, whose mother was a school teacher. “I’m just doing it with a different skill set.”

Amanda Hill

Senior Director, Marketing and External Relations, Peirce College
Amanda Hill / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Long before she became the cheerleader-in-chief for Peirce College, Philadelphia’s preeminent adult-education nonprofit, Amanda Hill grew up watching her mother juggle work and family while earning a bachelor’s degree. “I saw the hard work she put in, and then seeing what our students do at Peirce College – I’m in awe of the tenacity and grit that adult learners have,” reflected Hill. 

Hill’s own communications education started early. The 36-year-old Lancaster native was an avid reader by kindergarten – “and always a talker, too,” she joked. After studying writing at the University of Pittsburgh, Hill worked in marketing for a chocolate company before landing at Peirce a dozen years ago.

While holding a series of communications roles, Hill joined the ranks of Peirce’s predominantly Black learners, earning a master’s in organizational leadership and management. She recently added government advocacy to her portfolio, helping secure $4 million in mostly federal grants. During the pandemic, Hill launched Career Bridge, a free credentialing program aimed at retraining Peirce graduates for careers like medical coding and cybersecurity.

"This is a very cool place, because we focus on populations that are often overlooked,” said Hill. Leading Peirce’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2015, she added, galvanized her own sense of mission: “What I love most is watching our graduates go out there and just kill it.”

Jude Husein

Director of State Advocacy, Pennsylvania Senate
Jude Husein / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Jude Husein straddles worlds both local and global. Born in Palestine, she grew up in Philadelphia and, since 2022, is the Pennsylvania Senate’s only Arab staffer. “I bring a unique perspective, representing people that look like me and have been raised, like me, in the immigrant community,” she reflected.

There weren’t many women immigrants in public life when Husein was growing up. But Husein was determined, interning with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and creating the city’s first Palestinian American Solidarity Day in 2021, the year she graduated from LaSalle University. Next came a series of roles at youth nonprofits. “I wanted to be a leader who stayed connected to community,” she said. “I’m proud of providing space for young people, to ensure their voices at the table.”

Husein, 25, recently brought her own youthful voice to the state Senate, serving as director of community mobilization before overseeing state advocacy for Sen. Art Haywood. Along the way, she gave a TEDx talk and completed the Pew Charitable Trusts Emerging Leaders Corps.

“Now we’ve got women leaders, different colors, but we still have a long way to go,” said Husein. “Just because we have a few tokens doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do.”

Aaron Kelley

Director of Public Affairs, National Electrical Contractors Association – Penn-Del-Jersey chapter
Aaron Kelley / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Aaron Kelley is an advocate for things most people take for granted. “We flick on a light and don’t even realize all the work that went into making that happen – how important electricity is to making our society function,” he observed.

As regional director of public affairs for the National Electrical Contractors Association, Kelley makes that case to local, state and federal officials. He also works closely with the IBEW, the powerful electricians’ union, to promote the field’s workforce opportunities. 

Most recently, the 27-year-old coordinated with industry groups and PennDOT to secure federal investment for the region’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Now he’s lobbying alongside multiple stakeholders to fund a mid-Atlantic clean hydrogen hub. “Both the union jobs that will be created and having this innovative form of energy production in our region will be dramatic,” he said.

Originally from rural Clinton County, Kelley discovered Philadelphia’s charms as a student at Penn, where he earned degrees in political science and public administration. You might even say he gets a charge out of his role in igniting the city’s potential. “I am such a nerd when it comes to technology,” Kelley confessed. “It’s so important; it’s the future of our society moving forward.”

Zarinah Lomax

CEO, The Apologues
Zarinah Lomax / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Zarinah Lomax had been through a lot – childhood sexual abuse, a relative murdered, a father serving a life sentence – and knew she wasn’t alone. So a decade ago, the native Philadelphian began inviting victims of trauma, abuse and violence to share their stories.

What started as Instagram Live interviews became the weekly PhillyCAM TV series “Talking the Walk,” which evolved into “The Zarinah Lomax Show,” with some episodes attracting 20,000 viewers. In 2018, Lomax created “The Apologues,” a multimedia exhibit commemorating survivors’ stories with pop-ups in Chicago, Florida and elsewhere.

“People will talk about losing their children or loved ones, of overcoming tragedy,” noted Lomax, 38. “We’ve told 600 stories in five years.”

Lomax had a rocky youth before embracing faith at 28; in 2021, she graduated from Liberty University with a religion degree. Her show now reflects that spiritual depth, incorporating mental health referrals and, with “The Apologues,” healing through creative expression like art therapy.

“I asked myself, how can I take all of the things that are great about Philadelphia – fashion, art, music – and create a safe space for community?” explained Lomax. “On the other side of trauma, there is so much peace. I’m spending my life helping people get there.”

Katie Martin

Project Director, Philadelphia Research and Policy Initiative, Pew Charitable Trusts
Katie Martin / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Katie Martin grew up listening to heated political debates around her grandparents’ Philadelphia table every Sunday. “One day, it clicked: I can participate in these conversations!” recalled Martin, 37.

The Sunday mealtime debates continue, now at her parents’ house, and Martin has plenty to bring to the table. As project director of the Philadelphia Research and Policy Initiative at the Pew Charitable Trusts, she oversees polling and tracks social and economic trends across the city, from housing and employment to opioid use. “It’s a snapshot of where Philadelphia is right now,” Martin explained.

Martin previously held a series of administrative jobs in then-Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration, including as deputy policy director. She’d already earned a political science degree from Boston University and a master’s in public administration from Penn – but working on issues like youth summer employment, paid sick leave and marijuana gave Martin a crash course in real-world policy.

Now she helps inform governmental priorities with Pew’s annual State of the City report, quantifying Philadelphia’s strengths and weaknesses to effect progress. “I want to see the city working for the people who live here,” explained Martin. “Whether it’s housing policy, taxation or hiring for city employment, I want people to feel that their city is responsive to their needs.”

Sean-Tamba Matthew

Shareholder, Stevens & Lee
Sean-Tamba Matthew / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Sean-Tamba Matthew’s line of work – succession planning – might remind you of a certain HBO show. But the 37-year-old attorney – a shareholder in the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) practice group at Stevens & Lee – is confident that his clients end up happier than the fictional Roys. 

ESOPs, which transition a level of ownership to workers, “allow employees to be capitalists without having to put up the capital,” said Matthew. He guides mostly mid-market, owner-operated companies through that legal process – which, he explained, helps retain local jobs and reduce racial wealth disparities.

Upward mobility is something Matthew knows about. Growing up in Cleveland, his Liberian immigrant parents struggled to send their children to Catholic school while earning their own university degrees. Matthew studied political science at Penn before realizing that law was a better fit than politics for his social consciousness.

That decision has paid off in work like his consulting for Apis & Heritage Capital Partners, where Matthew is guiding a nearly $60 million investment in ESOPs for companies with largely minority employees. He also shares his industry knowledge as a Kellogg fellow at the Rutgers School of Management.

“You see the tremendous impact that employee ownership has,” Matthew observed. “For me, from a life goal perspective, this work is a dream come true.”

LaDeshia Maxwell

Special Projects Director, Philabundance
LaDeshia Maxwell / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Ask LaDeshia Maxwell about her career and she’ll pepper her response with the names of female mentors. They include recent mayoral candidate Rebecca Rhynhart, for whom Maxwell worked in the city controller’s office, and her own family of Jamaican immigrant matriarchs. “I grew up around Black women – my single mother, my aunts down the street with their daughters,” recalled Maxwell, who is now the special projects director at the nutrition nonprofit Philabundance.

Inspired by a class on government and law, Maxwell was mentored by a Black professor throughout her Bloomsburg University studies in political science and public administration. “Service came easy to me, because I knew how to look after my community,” noted Maxwell, 31. She served as deputy Southeast regional director for then-Gov. Tom Wolf and also headed his advisory commission on African American affairs, working on issues like gun violence and maternal mortality. 

At Philabundance, Maxwell is expanding health equity and community nutrition partnerships with nearly 400 organizations, including major collaborations with Aetna and UPMC. She is also a founding member of She Can Win, a 10-year-old nonpartisan program that promotes women in civic leadership.

You won’t catch Maxwell running for office, however. “I am a background girl,” she explained. “I enjoy helping people. But I don’t need to be in the spotlight.”

Erika McLeod & Rodney McLeod

Founders, Change Our Future Foundation
Erika McLeod & Rodney McLeod / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

In 2020, Rodney and Erika McLeod founded the Change Our Future Foundation, aiming to alter the trajectory for underserved young people of color. “Rodney and I saw so many communities where the students looked like us, but they didn’t have as many opportunities,” recalled Erika McLeod, 33. 

As Rodney, 32, built a career with the NFL – he recently signed with the Cleveland Browns – the couple simultaneously devoted themselves to philanthropy in their adopted hometown of Philadelphia. Their foundation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through fundraisers like their extremely popular annual Sneaker Ball while partnering with local high schools.

At last year’s debut Youth Leadership Summit, “it was so inspiring to see students who maybe never believed in themselves displaying leadership qualities,” said Erika. For Rodney, a highlight has been college visits with the Foundation’s young men’s mentorship program.

The McLeods met at the University of Virginia, where Erika considered a career in pediatrics. Sidelined by an injury, she was drawn to the nonprofit world, creating a women’s mentoring program with the Charlottesville chapters of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Now our goal is to spread out across the Philadelphia area, because there are so many students in need,” Erika reflected. “We’ve always wanted to walk hand-in-hand with children and their families for a better life.”

Peter Merzbacher

Founder and Owner, Merzbacher’s of Germantown
Peter Merzbacher / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Peter Merzbacher has a clear vision for what he calls a “healthy community ecosystem.” “There should be a farmer, a mechanic, a doctor’s office, a school – and there should be a bakery,” he said.

Accordingly, over the past decade, Merzbacher has built his own bakery into a neighborhood anchor. He started as a one-man delivery enterprise, baking bread off-hours in a pizzeria and an abandoned Tunisian bakery (where he also lived) before opening Merzbacher’s. The Germantown bakery uses locally sourced ingredients – including flour from Lancaster – to make its signature square English muffins and other affordably priced staples.

All of it is infused with the sustainability and social consciousness that are guiding principles for Merzbacher, who is fastidious about not being “an accidental gentrifier.” After creating his own major in globalization and entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst, the Boston native ran urban farming and youth initiatives through AmeriCorps before a grant brought him to Philadelphia at age 22. Working as a line cook to pay the bills, he discovered a talent for breadmaking – and never looked back.

Merzbacher, 34, is now planning an expansion into coffee, pastries and weekend pizza, turning his mostly-wholesale operation into a neighborhood hub. “To me, the essence of entrepreneurship is following your curiosity, learning new things and creating something of value for your community,” he affirmed.

Salomon Moreno-Rosa

Managing Director, Envoy
Salomon Moreno-Rosa / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Salomon Moreno-Rosa didn’t have to look far to see how easily his life could have taken a less fortunate turn. The son of Salvadoran immigrants, Moreno-Rosa “code-switched” as his parents’ translator and watched an older sibling drop out of school to help support the family.

“From an early age, I understood the challenges my community faced around access to the important building blocks – education, health care, stable housing,” Moreno-Rosa explained.

Now 32, he is devoted to ensuring other at-risk youth have the opportunities that propelled him to be a first-generation high school and college graduate. At Envoy, the social impact consultancy where he oversees strategy and philanthropy, Moreno-Rosa manages $2 million in grantmaking for foundations and guides partnerships with community organizations on anti-poverty, criminal justice reform and social mobility initiatives. 

Moreno-Rosa got his political start in high school, serving on county and statewide youth advisory councils. After earning degrees in education policy and public administration from the University of Pennsylvania, he worked at the Urban Affairs Coalition and as a policy fellow with Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke.

He knows how lucky he’s been. “I’d also like to think that even if my upbringing was on the opposite side of the spectrum,” Moreno-Rosa mused, “I’d still feel just as passionately about this work.”

Ada Okafor

General Counsel and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, American Board of Surgery
Ada Okafor / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

If anyone’s qualified to weigh in on diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s Ada Okafor. The American Board of Surgery’s inaugural DEI chief was born in Nigeria, grew up in the United Kingdom and settled in Texas as a teen, where she wrestled with what “African American” meant for her.

“Being a Black woman, an immigrant woman, and having grown up on three different continents – in any given space, I’m typically the first or the only one,” reflected Okafor, 38. Case in point: She’s the first person of color to hold the title of general counsel in the board’s 85-year history.

Okafor landed in Philadelphia in 2018, working as an employee benefits attorney at Ballard Spahr before joining ABS three years later. In addition to overseeing legal, compliance and risk management, Okafor leads initiatives to diversify America’s surgical workforce through broader recruitment as well as partnerships with residency programs and the American College of Surgeons. 

When she leads trainings around topics like implicit bias, or listens to minority voices in the monthly speaker series she founded, Okafor remembers the self-conscious teen she once was – “the only Black kid, working so hard to assimilate,” she recalled. “That’s why I’m absolutely passionate about making sure that people feel valued, seen and respected, so that they can bring their best selves to work.”

Victoria Perrone

President and Founder and Principal, Spruce Street Consulting
Victoria Perrone / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Looking back, political strategist Victoria Perrone realizes the Philadelphia of her childhood was “a liberal bubble.” “I thought everybody supported public education,” recalled Perrone, 33, who works on behalf of those who do as founding president of Philadelphia-based Spruce Street Consulting. “I didn’t realize there was a culture war.”

Perrone scored a victory in that war last fall when one of her clients, Democrat John Fetterman, won Pennsylvania’s tight U.S. Senate election. She oversaw Fetterman’s campaign operations and personnel and, as treasurer, managed an $80 million budget – her largest to date.

Perrone’s activist energy dates to high school, where she was president of the gay-straight alliance and marched against drunk driving. What she lacked in family money and connections, the bricklayer’s daughter made up for in ambition, interning with the Democratic National Committee while working her way through Catholic University.

Hillary Clinton remains an inspiration for Perrone, who volunteered for the candidate’s 2008 presidential run and served as the 2016 campaign’s Pennsylvania operations director. In her 20s, she held a series of finance and compliance roles in Washington, D.C. and Harrisburg, including for then-Gov. Tom Wolf, in whose administration she worked before founding Spruce Street Consulting.

“I love numbers, and I’m blessed to have found my niche,” Perrone reflected. “When I work with clients, I take over everything administrative so they can focus on winning.”

Scott Peterman

Executive Director and CEO, Philadelphia Charters for Excellence
Scott Peterman / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Nonprofits are his specialty – but Scott Peterman, CEO of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence, sees himself chiefly as a social entrepreneur. “Connecting people to resources and opportunities really excites me,” said Peterman. He does just that as head of an advocacy organization representing 80 of Philadelphia’s 83 charter schools – and, by extension, 65,000 mostly low-income students.

When the pandemic struck just months into his role at PCE, Peterman steered a partnership with the city health department, coordinating test distribution and disseminating COVID-19 guidance. He has since also expanded the nonprofit’s role as an anchor network for collaborations, implementing peer-to-peer work groups.

The Philly native credits his own parents, both of whom are city librarians, for instilling a sense of social mission. “They saw their roles as empowering underserved communities and society through education,” he said. “I’ve carried that forward.”

After earning a master’s of public administration from the University of Pennsylvania, Peterman worked at a variety of nonprofits, including as a community outreach specialist for his parents’ employer, the Free Library of Philadelphia. The grassroots spirit of charter schools – which in Philadelphia disproportionately serve disadvantaged populations – is particularly close to his heart. 

“They’re community-created and give everyone an opportunity, in theory, to be able to choose the schools they want,” reflected Peterman. “It resonated a lot with how I was raised – working on sustainable solutions, shared ownership and inclusion.”

Lex Powers

Director of Information Design, SEPTA
Lex Powers / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

There was never any question of Lex Powers working on Wall Street, in haute couture or any other career that would have taken him away from his beloved Philadelphia. “I refuse to work anywhere else,” affirmed Powers, 34.

Fittingly, Powers has found his niche at that most Philadelphian of institutions: SEPTA. After five years as a strategic and long-range planner for the regional transit network, Powers recently became SEPTA’s director of information design, overseeing semiotic communication for nearly 150 million annual passengers.

“If you change the signs, you change the way that people perceive the network,” Powers explained. Substandard wayfinding tools – from placards to mobile apps – have been a top rider complaint, so Powers is heading a multi-year project to replace 200,000 signs and update SEPTA’s online tools. Especially given post-pandemic rider hesitancy, he said, “signage and information are a safety and quality-of-life issue.”

Growing up in Bryn Mawr, Powers walked to his local SEPTA station just to watch the trains. At Villanova, he majored in geography “because it was the closest thing to urban studies,” explained Powers, who also earned a master’s in city and regional planning from Penn.

Commuting via the Broad and Locust concourse, Powers gets real-time, daily feedback on how his work impacts routines and opportunities for his fellow Philadelphians. “I’m lucky,” he observed. “I have the job that I always wanted.”

Andrea Ramunno

Founder and Principal, Rise Political Strategies
Andrea Ramunno / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Fresh off what she calls “the most rewarding race of my career” – serving as national finance director for John Fetterman’s U.S. Senate campaign – Andrea Ramunno decided it was time for work-life balance. As founding principal of Rise Political Strategies, Ramunno can work on big, strategic projects and still “block a day off if my kid has a field trip,” she explained.

Ramunno, whose son is 3 years old, is part of a generational paradigm shift toward prioritizing a balance between career and family. “Taking care of people is how you keep them in this business,” she emphasized.

The 33-year-old was destined for this business since childhood, when she begged her bemused mother for a Newsweek subscription. Ramunno first organized for Barack Obama in 2008, worked on local campaigns at the University of Akron and came to Philly to oversee campaigning for state Sen. Vincent Hughes.

Early on, Ramunno discovered a talent for fundraising; she has served as finance director for the Pennsylvania Democrats and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. During four years at Rittenhouse Political Partners, Ramunno managed a portfolio of state, local and federal races, including Amy Klobuchar’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Fifteen years in, she retains her idealism. “Obama’s campaign made me feel like I mattered – like I made a difference,” she said. “And I continue to absolutely believe that. This is the best way that I can make sure my values and my voice are represented.”

Vaughn Ross

Founder, Rvesta
Vaughn Ross / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Vaughn Ross’s grandparents were part of the Great Migration of Black Americans, leaving rural Georgia for the promise of Philadelphia. “Some of that promise was real, but the obstacles they faced were significant,” said Ross, 35. “I’m constantly thinking about how to ensure that people have the opportunity cities are supposed to live up to.”

That motivation propelled Ross to found his consultancy, Rvesta, which specializes in urban development. Since launching in 2021, Ross has partnered with the Pew Charitable Trusts on the Emerging Leaders Corps and is working with the city’s economic development agency to develop the Lower Schuylkill biotech campus.

Ross thought he’d be an attorney like his father, but he quit law school to work on campaigns and never looked back. Having overseen fundraising for Jim Kenney’s 2015 mayoral bid, Ross spent six years as Kenney’s deputy chief of staff, working on the city’s Amazon HQ2 bid, the 2017 NFL draft and the 2018 Eagles Super Bowl parade.

He’s currently treasurer of the PHL City Fund, but “after doing it as a job for 10 years, politics is now a hobby,” Ross laughed. “Having seen the difficulties cities face, I built a consulting firm to deal with all those big, hairy issues – housing, transportation, infrastructure. That’s the world I’m in now – and I’m loving it.”

Nicholas Ryan

Vice President of Casino Marketing, Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia
Nicholas Ryan / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Like any gambler worth their salt, Nicholas Ryan doesn’t give up easily. Ryan, who since 2019 has overseen marketing for Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia, talked his way into the business as a 21-year-old by betting a $200 restaurant gift certificate against his ability to succeed at Harrah’s in Chester. Armed with a cheap suit and a borrowed briefcase, he won that bet – and has been on a lucky streak ever since.

Now 37, Ryan always knew he’d thrive in a business built on relationships. “I held doors, I kissed babies,” he recalled. “The biggest players in the casino ­– I knew their favorite drinks, their kids’ birthdays.” That’s how he went from an $8-an-hour job to becoming the youngest executive in Caesars Entertainment’s history – the guy who takes care of Roger Clemens and sells out $1,000-a-night suites. 

Ryan’s drive comes from a hardscrabble South Jersey childhood and a succession of physically grueling jobs: sanitation, busboy, construction worker. “I always wanted two things: to be successful, and not to struggle like I did growing up,” he recalled.

That determination is evident at Live!, where revenue is up 90% this year and Live! has sold out the hotel weekend after weekend. Meanwhile, Ryan is still schmoozing. “I hear so many stories,” he said. “And a lot of them, I have to take to the grave.”

Eliza Salerno

Senior Vice President, Operations and Product, Medical Guardian
Eliza Salerno / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

While America’s health care industry primarily treats illness or injury, Eliza Salerno has always focused on what she calls proactive health care – “how to prevent falling, getting sick, going to hospitals.”

Prevention is Salerno’s focus as operations and product chief at Medical Guardian, the fast-growing Pennsylvania-based outfit that produces medical-alert systems and devices like smart watches. 

Since joining the company as an executive assistant in 2017, Salerno went from managing two people to 200, created new business areas and, most recently, oversaw a 20,000-square-foot Sharon Hill fulfillment center. It’s little wonder Medical Guardian has been ranked among Inc.’s 5,000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America for six consecutive years. 

Health has been Salerno’s passion for as long as she can remember. The New Jersey native worked for a chiropractor while studying political science and psychology at Rutgers, then worked for a series of wellness centers before joining Medical Guardian.

“People are looking for someone to tell them what to do to help themselves live longer and better,” reflected Salerno, 35. But even Philadelphia’s wellness guru has her guilty pleasures; Salerno relies on spin classes to mitigate the dietary excesses of her restaurant habit. “And I’m not a relaxed person,” she admitted, “but I religiously do yoga.”

Tiffanie Stanard

Founder and CEO, Stimulus
Tiffanie Stanard / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

No one who has met Tiffanie Stanard would be surprised to hear she’s raised nearly $4 million in capital for Stimulus, the vendor management company she founded in 2019 – or that her investors include Morgan Stanley, Microsoft and Salesforce.

Stanard, 37, has been a full-time entrepreneur since she left her job in payroll and vendor management at Sunoco in 2009, figuring she could do it better. She’d already launched Prestige Concepts, a brand enhancement agency.

Stanard’s entrepreneurship dates to a high school job at a medical office, where her boss encouraged her education in business management. 

Stanard’s most ambitious project to date is Stimulus, which employs data analytics to connect medium-to-large companies with vendors and suppliers.

“We simplify the purchasing process, making it more transparent and efficient,” explained Stanard. “We also help our stakeholders achieve their corporate goals, such as more diverse purchasing from women and minorities.”

For a decade, Stanard has also produced and hosted “Philly Speaks,” a Radio One broadcast for which she interviews local politicians, businesspeople and entertainers. “The more people you know, the more people you can help,” she said. “I always say I work at the intersection of tech, media and community.”

Britainy Stephens

Director of Operations, Benchmark Real Estate Partners
Britainy Stephens / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Real estate developer Britainy Stephens fell in love with entrepreneurship, but at heart she’ll always remain a social worker. “Real estate and social work are both about meeting people where they’re at,” observed Stephens, 31, who currently oversees operations for Benchmark Real Estate Partners. “A lot of it is problem-solving – understanding who you’re working with, and finding the best solutions for them.”

Stephens, a Minnesota native, came to the University of Pennsylvania for social work school after graduating from Smith College. At Jefferson Hospital’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, she helped create a bone marrow transplant education program and founded a support group for African Americans with multiple myeloma. 

But real estate proved too alluring. After several years as an independent residential agent and property manager, Stephens joined the commercial sales division at Binswanger in 2022. She also recently graduated from DiverseForce, a minority leadership training program, and picked up a LEED AP green building accreditation.

“A lot of my work has been finding synergies of sustainable and equitable development in the city – building healthier places for people to live,” Stephens noted. She recently joined the advisory board of Compass Working Capital, a social equity nonprofit aimed at building asset wealth, and is independently developing a triplex near Temple’s medical school.

“I’m naturally a risk-taker if it feels right,” Stephens reflected. “Everything’s kind of segued and worked out.”

Bernard Tynes

Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing and Impact Officer, Penn Community Bank
Bernard Tynes / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Bernard Tynes could have made a successful career in banking without a social mission. But at Penn Community Bank – Eastern Pennsylvania’s largest mutual bank – Tynes, the chief marketing and impact officer, has earned national recognition for inclusive products that engage beyond mainstream banking’s traditional clientele.

Tynes led the development of PCB’s award-winning Access Checking, a basic account for clients traditionally shut out of mainstream banking due to poor or non-existent credit histories. “That was unfair,” affirmed Tynes, “and the industry is moving in our direction, but I was proud to be one of the first community banks recognized for this work.”

Last year, he also assumed leadership of the PCB Foundation, overseeing charitable donations and strategic partnerships across Greater Philadelphia. “I was brought in at a critical point to re-strategize and weave diversity, equity and inclusion into the work we do,” he said.

An executive vice president at PCB, which has over $2 billion in assets, Tynes is the youngest board member of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association and a founding member of its diversity, inclusion and equity advisory council. The Kennett Square native also serves on the communications council for the American Bankers Association.

“To be very intentional about the work we do and the decisions we make at the executive level of a financial institution is really super-rewarding,” he said.

Mikecia Witherspoon

Eastern Pennsylvania Regional Director, Office of U.S. Sen. John Fetterman
Mikecia Witherspoon / Cecil Goodwin

After a decade working in Philadelphia – much of it in City Hall – Mikecia Witherspoon discovered “there’s a whole other world outside Philly,” she recalled with a laugh. Now Eastern Pennsylvania regional director for John Fetterman, Witherspoon has been staffing up the senator’s community offices, spearheading partnerships and addressing crises like March’s West Reading chocolate factory explosion.

“Local politics is where it’s at,” affirmed Witherspoon – and for her, that’s been as true in the suburbs as it ever was in her native Philadelphia.

The 32-year-old grew up in a family with roots in Alabama’s civil rights movement and a grandmother who worked for then-Gov. Ed Rendell. After studying political science at Bryn Mawr, Witherspoon earned a master’s in public administration at the University of Pennsylvania. 

An internship with Jim Kenney’s mayoral campaign turned into five years at City Hall – including a stint as deputy chief of staff – followed by a role managing government relations for the Community College of Philadelphia.

“I use what I learned at City Hall to establish similar connections in Harrisburg and D.C.,” said Witherspoon. “But I’m still here in Philadelphia – so it’s the best of both worlds.”

Melissa Wright

Senior Director, Data and Policy, City of Philadelphia
Melissa Wright / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

Like the rest of her “numbers family,” Melissa Wright was good at math. But that didn’t stop her Jamaican immigrant parents from worrying that her passion for social justice would lead to a career of noble poverty. “My parents were always joking, ‘We’re going to have to support you forever,’” recalled Wright.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Wright now combines her quantitative and empathetic abilities as Philadelphia’s director for data and policy, “telling the stories behind the numbers,” as she puts it. At the Office of Economic Opportunity, she works with minority, disabled and other underrepresented Philadelphia business owners seeking city contracts. “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about equity in all my work,” reflected Wright, who previously collaborated on progress report data for the School District of Philadelphia.

That work also includes leadership with the League of Women Voters, where Wright heads the Philadelphia chapter, combatting voter apathy through programming that gives voters the local angle on Harrisburg. The onetime Fordham economics major is also the league's state treasurer  – “the less sexy role,” joked Wright.  

In all her work, Wright aims for influence that doesn’t take sides. “When you’re advocating for equity across issues, one of the levers that you can pull is policy,” she said. “And in today’s world, so often, we are missing that nonpartisan lens.”

Dennie Zastrow

Antitrust Associate, Morgan Lewis
Dennie Zastrow / Jared Gruenwald, Left-Eyed Studios

The first in his family to go to college, attorney Dennie Zastrow is determined to make a social as well as a legal impact. Zastrow, an antitrust associate at Morgan Lewis, also holds local and national leadership roles with the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

“As a white gay man who works for a big law firm, I could very easily just take a step back,” noted Zastrow, referring to the increasingly hostile political climate around LGBTQ+ issues. “But a lot of members of the community don’t have the privilege that I have.”

Zastrow grew up in Western New York and earned both undergraduate and public administration degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. Working in legislative research for the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus inspired Zastrow to earn his JD at Temple, where he was drawn to the energetic antitrust area. “It has an outsized impact on the economy and how people live their lives,” Zastrow noted.

In his spare time, Zastrow’s pro bono work encompasses civil rights litigation on behalf of prisoners as well as the name change clinic of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. “What can be prohibitively expensive and confusing for the lay person is very easy for us,” explained Zastrow. “It’s the perfect example of a project that has a huge impact.”

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