Dozens of the Pittsburgh area’s top institutions are going through leadership changes. The turnover could echo for decades.

In government, higher ed, nonprofits and economic development, a slew of new CEOs, presidents and directors face challenges with fresh perspectives — and their success could hinge on the chemistry among them.


by Charlie Wolfson and Rich Lord, PublicSource

Pittsburgh has known its share of titanic figures. Consider Andrew Carnegie, Elsie Hillman, Robert L. Vann and David L. Lawrence. The city has also been shaped by irresistible forces such as westward migration, industrialization and the rise of tech. 

In 2020, two tidal waves — the coronavirus pandemic and the social justice surge — rocked institutional leadership, and a reset is taking shape.

From 2021 through the end of this year, dozens of Pittsburgh’s major agenda-setting institutions are experiencing change at the top. They span development, government, higher education and the nonprofit sector.

Some leaders were ready to retire in 2020 but stayed through the worst of the pandemic before bowing out. Others saw mounting socioeconomic pressures and decided it was time to move on. Politically, Mayor Bill Peduto failed to ride the waves; Congressman Mike Doyle passed the baton; and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald must move on due to term limits.

“Some of it’s natural and generational,” Fitzgerald said. “But because it’s all happening kind of at once, I think it does have people a little bit concerned.”

This package was produced in partnership with Pittsburgh Magazine, which has been covering the city and western Pennsylvania since 1969.

PublicSource and Pittsburgh Magazine partnered to look at more than 30 recent, ongoing or impending leadership changes at top Southwestern Pennsylvania institutions. In the accompanying stories, you’ll hear from some of the departing leaders and meet many of their replacements. You’ll get a sense of the forces shifting sectors of our civic foundation and the stakes at play in such a major reshuffling.

The big picture: The cascade of departures has diversified some areas of regional leadership and has spurred new commitments to community engagement and creating a more equitable quality of life across the region. The big question: How do dozens of leaders enhance or forge relationships all at once?

The departing leaders had average tenures of 15 years. If their careers are any guide, some of the newcomers will be with us for decades. Here’s how the board is being set for Pittsburgh’s next era.

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