2018 Benter Vision Awardees

The applicant pool was so strong that the Advisory Committee recommended five awardees for confirmation by The Benter Foundation board of directors. The program design had originally called for approving up to three awards. This year, two individuals applied together as a workplace team to share an award. The Benter Vision Awardees in 2018 and their proposed leadership development activities are:


Grant Awarded to:

Bike Pittsburgh, Inc.

Scott Bricker, Executive Director, Bike Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has done a great deal over the past decade to make the city’s narrow streets and hilly terrain friendlier to bicyclists and pedestrians. Scott Bricker has been essential to this effort. During Scott’s tenure, Bike Pittsburgh has pursued an agenda that moved Pittsburgh to the top ten of the nation’s bike-friendliest cities. Additional work needs to be done to connect underserved communities and to promote accessible transit that can move more people to school, work and recreational activities.

Proposed Leadership Development

Scott will pursue a professional development experience that offers the time and tools necessary to help him envision an integrated transit and mobility vision for the Pittsburgh region. He proposed attending either a leadership development course at Stanford University or a residential planning experience in Italy. Both experiences will allow for meetings with urban leaders in Europe where new, integrated mobility strategies benefit more citizens and their region’s competitiveness. As a result of the experience, Scott believes that Bike Pittsburgh can pursue an agenda that demonstrates how mobility issues intersect prominently with climate change, air quality, affordability, housing, race, class, and economic opportunity –issues that are of utmost concern in Pittsburgh right now.


Grant Awarded to:

Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest, d/b/a, Tree Pittsburgh

Danielle Crumrine, Executive Director, Tree Pittsburgh

The state of the tree canopy is worsening in the region. The tree canopy is the part of a region shaded by trees, and the amount of tree cover can lower temperatures, provide healthy habitats, even cleanse the air we breathe. In 2017 alone, Allegheny County lost 11,000 trees to development projects and residential removal. Tree Pittsburgh has conducted the landmark research that reveals this erosion, elevating public information and with it, possible activities to counteract the negative and very real consequences of tree loss. As founding executive director, Danielle designed and carried out a path breaking urban agenda at Tree Pittsburgh that now requires bold new strategies to address this challenge.

Proposed Leadership Development

Danielle proposes participation in the SyncUp Leadership program paired with one-on-one interviews and shadowing with successful national leaders in her field. Tree Pittsburgh recently finished a major capital campaign and launched a new educational administrative campus and tree nursery in Lawrenceville. Danielle emphasized that the moment is ripe for her to imagine the next chapter of the organization and its impact in our region through these leadership development activities.


Grant Awarded to:

The Mattress Factory

Caitlin Harpster, Director of Development, Mattress Factory,

Michael (Misha) Cannon, Operations Manager, Mattress Factory

Over the past few years these two emerging leaders have collaborated on a variety of new ventures within the Mattress Factory, a unique destination installation museum in the city’s Northside. The pairing of an operations and a development leader to engage a board committee and work colleagues to digest and apply their learning is timely, especially in light of the passing of the Mattress Factory’s founder. Together they will work on additional ways to demonstrate to new audiences that the Mattress Factory is for them, casting new light on how museums can enhance their relevance and reach into the community.

Proposed Leadership Development

Caitlin (Director of Development) and Misha (Director of Operations) were accepted to an eight-month virtual Executive Program in Arts and Culture Strategy offered in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. The program offers financial management, marketing, governance, network building and more. The program encourages team participation, making it a particularly good match for two work partners to attend together. The team proposes convening a board committee to share their learning and to join with them in identifying strategic activities for the Museum as a result of their participation.


Grant Awarded to:

Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc.

Aleta King, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

A  “speeding truck” of new audience dynamics, will affect several institutions within the Cultural District over the next 10 years. Competition for free time, evolving audience demographics and changes in ticket buying patterns will all challenge arts groups to develop new ways to bring patrons to their shows.  Resident companies have an opportunity to unpack more than twenty years of captured ticket data to help them spot new patterns – a challenge that Aleta will undertake in her Benter Vision Award experience. Aleta started her career as a box office attendant at Heinz Hall. Working both within the PSO and with other resident companies in the Cultural District, she hopes that change management and data analytics tools will aid efforts to grow the region’s cultural audiences overall.

Proposed Leadership Development

Aleta proposes a professional development program based on two executive education programs at the University of Pennsylvania. One is centered on Customer Data Analytics and the other on Change Management. The combination of these two or similar learning opportunities would allow her to analyze audience engagement in ways that could enable several regional arts groups – not just the Pittsburgh Symphony – to be more relevant to their customers. Aleta hopes to eventually adopt practices that tap data to benefit the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and the Cultural District as a whole.


Grant Awarded to:

Pittsburgh Glass Center, Inc.

Heather McElwee, Executive Director, Pittsburgh Glass Center

Heather became executive director of the Pittsburgh Glass Center in 2011. Since then, she has led the organization through financial challenges and into a period of diversified revenue, extensive educational offerings, and community outreach. To expand its footprint in Garfield, PGC is considering the purchase and renovation of a property on Penn Avenue. The new facility would house studio production space, administrative offices, and instructional facilities. The expansion represents the PGC’s growing prominence as a world-class destination and educational center, as well as a deepened commitment to responsible community development in Pittsburgh’s East End. Heather plans to share her leadership training experience through several collaboratives in which she is currently active.

Proposed Leadership Development

Heather proposes a five-day immersive leadership experience at the Ashridge Executive Education Center at the Hult International Business School in England. Following her immersive training experience, Heather will benefit from the program’s built-in ongoing virtual coaching component, allowing for ongoing integration of the training with issues as they arise back at work.


Further Reading:



Opioids in the Community

Spotlight - Partners Work in Progress