Rick Smith’s first job in New York was driving a taxi while a grad student at Columbia. A few twists in the road later found him at Newsweek magazine on something called a two-to-four week writing tryout. It apparently went well. Thirty-seven years later, Rick retired from the magazine after serving as Hong Kong Bureau Chief, Asian Editor, Editor of the International Editions and 23 years as Editor-in-Chief and 16 as Chairman and CEO as well. Along the way, Newsweek won a host of national magazine awards, recorded some of the most profitable years in its history, and introduced seven foreign-language editions. For his efforts, Rick earned the magazine industry’s highest honor, The Henry Johnson Fisher Award for Lifetime Achievement. He joined the Pinkerton board in 1995, and after a few years of site visits to programs supported by the Foundation, he pronounced the director’s job “the best job in the world.” A decade later, the board remembered his comment. He became Pinkerton’s President in 2010. Rick is also non-executive Chairman of Merryck & Co. Americas, a leading CEO mentoring firm, and a board member of the Forestar Group and of Videolicious.com, a technology startup. In addition, he’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and on the board of visitors of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the international board of the Harvard AIDS Initiative. He is married to Dr. Soon-Young Yoon, a medical anthropologist who consults with the World Health Organization and other international agencies. She is the chair of NGO/CSW, a U.S.-based group that supports the work of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
Laurie Dien grew up in St. Louis with dreams first of designing toys and later entire playgrounds. She went on to earn a B.A. from Barnard and a Ph.D. in environmental psychology from the CUNY Graduate School. Only then did she realize that her true motivation was a desire to improve the lives of young people in general. That led her to the Hasbro Children’s Foundation and ultimately to The Pinkerton Foundation in 1997. More than a decade ago, Laurie was instrumental in the founding of the Career Internship Network, a source of education and professional development opportunities for organizations that offer internships to thousands of high school students each year. She continues to have a special fondness for programs that provide career exploration for all young people and education and employment opportunities for those who are out of work and out of school. Laurie is also one of the architects of the Science Research Mentoring Consortium. Currently in its third year, the initiative—now known as the Pinkerton Science Scholars Program—offers intensive science training and one-on-one mentoring in an authentic laboratory research project to talented high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds. That’s a long way from the toy box (or the sandbox, for that matter), but we see evidence every day that Laurie’s still having a lot of fun.
It’s a long, long way from a high school job at “Poor Little Rich Girl,” a dress shop in Beverly Hills, to representing displaced Navajo people at the Big Mountain Legal Office in Flagstaff, Arizona, but Julie Peterson’s eclectic career spans those worlds and more. A graduate of Cornell and Harvard Law, Julie’s first exposure to nonprofit work was with the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project where she served as an advocate for the incarcerated. After practicing law for six years, she became a legal analyst working on behalf of the Federal District Court to improve conditions in New York City jails. She later served as a program officer for the Edna McConnell Clark and JEHT foundations. Julie has written on juvenile justice and other youth-related issues and served as a consultant for funders ranging from the Langeloth Foundation to the Youth Transition Funders Group. She has helped with recruiting and strategic planning for nonprofits and government agencies, including the Center for Economic Opportunity and the Vera Institute of Justice. Julie joined Pinkerton in September of 2013 upon completion of three years as Director of Public Private Partnerships for the New York City Department of Probation. Her primary focus is on Youth and Family Justice. She works with programs for young people entangled in the justice system and also with youth in or aging out of foster care, teen mothers and children of the incarcerated.
Jenny has a unique perspective on the value of Pinkerton grants. In 1998, three days after graduating from New York’s high school for pregnant and parenting teens and six weeks after the birth of her son Joel, she went to work as an “Explainer” in the Science Career Ladder program at the New York Hall of Science–a longtime Pinkerton grantee. While there, she completed her B.A. at Queens College and went on to earn a Master’s in Public Administration at Baruch College. She eventually rose to lead the 100 high school and college Explainers who guide thousands of visitors through the Hall of Science each year. Jenny has presented papers and led discussions at science education conferences at home and abroad and has been recognized as a Next Generation Getty Leadership Fellow. She brought her interest and expertise in youth programs and science and technology training to Pinkerton in January of 2012. Joel has been an Explainer himself and is now a college student. Longtime Pinkerton-watchers will note that until exchanging vows with her beloved Anthony on September 18th, 2016, Jenny was known as Jennifer Correa. (We like her by any name.)
Arriving on the campus of Brown University, Danielle Pulliam quickly realized that her Bronx high school hadn’t fully prepared her for the rigors of an Ivy League education. She battled back. After a challenging first year, she earned her degree in computer science and management and joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). In her four years there, Danielle found that her pro bono work was much more rewarding than projects for paying clients. Her bosses might not have been delighted, but it fueled her interest in public service. She joined the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center (a long-time Pinkerton grantee) and then the United Way, where she earned an MPA from Baruch College through the National Urban Fellows Program. Later, she worked with Public/Private Ventures and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Before joining Pinkerton, Danielle was with the New York City Department of Education as the director of Strategic Partnerships in the Office of Adult and Continuing Education. We’re pleased by (but promise not to abuse) her ongoing interest in computers and technology—and we are very impressed by her prowess doing the Robot dance. Her focus at Pinkerton will be on programs related to literacy, sports and the arts.
Erickson Blakney presented himself to the foundation with an impressive background as an award-winning writer, reporter and interviewer for Bloomberg and CBS News. Now those career skills are all important for a successful program officer, but in fact it was his extracurricular activities that set EB–as everyone calls him–apart. Throughout nearly two decades in the media business, he displayed a deep passion for the worlds of philanthropy and social service and managed to amass a wealth of experience in the process. After graduating from Hobart College, he did an early career stint at the Daytop Village substance abuse treatment program and later earned a certificate in nonprofit management from CUNY’s Hostos College. In 2005, EB and several friends organized a private “giving circle” to identify, assess and make grants to various educational, social service and human rights organizations. (To date, the circle has distributed over $3 million.) And for the last seven years, he’s been a thoughtful, engaged and effective board member of the DreamYard Project, a longtime Pinkerton grantee in the Bronx. He plays a similar role on the board of The Lower Mississippi River Foundation, an organization devoted to protecting the Mississippi Delta and providing outdoor experiential education. In his spare, spare time, EB also produced a documentary film on the Delta’s blues tradition, but that’s another story. Feel free to ask him.
Jill Bregenzer came to the foundation in 2011, fresh from her first year as the Treasurer of the PTA at P.S. 40 in Manhattan. She had a few other relevant credentials as well. Before taking time off to be with her two young daughters, Jill served for twelve years at PricewaterhouseCoopers. At PwC, she was a Senior Audit Manager on a number of major domestic and international accounts, and a Human Resources Manager working on compensation and training matters. (We found her undergraduate history as a toll taker for the New York State Bridge Authority intriguing, but somewhat less relevant.) Jill graduated from Union College and received an MBA from the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester. Her background is perfect for a Jill-of-all-trades role at the Foundation that includes being chief financial officer and a one-woman human resources department.
Yvonne Schonborg, a Bronx native and die-hard Yankees fan, has served in the finance and management sectors for thirty-eight years. Recently, she has successfully installed the Foundation’s new grants management software, ensuring that it serves program officers, grant applications and, of course, the auditors as well. Yvonne manages the Foundation’s books, turns board decisions into documents (and grantee checks) and generally keeps the office humming. A graduate of National University in San Diego, Yvonne served for fifteen years at HomeFed Bank in California where she was an IT business and data analyst, branch manager and operations supervisor. In 1997, she returned to New York and became the business manager for the Reformed Church of Bronxville and assistant executive director for Beneath the Sea in Westchester. Yvonne joined the Foundation in 2009 and also served as the controller and human resources administrator for the Ann Pinkerton Charitable Trust.
As the first voice most people hear at the foundation, we wanted to make sure that our receptionist was a cheery, welcoming presence, not a stern gatekeeper. In Olivia, we found just that. We didn’t know we needed an experienced lifeguard, but we got that, too. In fact, her enthusiasm about her work with diverse groups of young people at pools in her hometown of Phoenix—and her deep interest in the youth programs Pinkerton supports– convinced us that she would be a great fit with us. Indeed. In a little over a year, Olivia proved so helpful in so many ways that we happily promoted her to Administrative Assistant. Olivia graduated with high honors in Women’s and Gender studies from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and spent a year abroad allegedly studying in Amsterdam. She also won something called The Gold Axe Award at NAU, but we were a little hesitant to ask about that. (Feel free.)
Considering how much Steven talks about “raising floors and building ladders,” you might think he’s in the construction trade. In a sense, of course, he is. He has dedicated most of his professional life to building pathways to employment and productive careers for disadvantaged young people and adults. A native New Englander, he began his own career in the rural South with the National Association for the Southern Poor and went on to found the Industrial Cooperative Association, now the ICA Group, which provides legal, educational and technical assistance to employee-owned businesses in low-income communities. Steven came to Pinkerton’s attention because of his groundbreaking work in establishing PHI, the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute in the South Bronx. PHI is a nationally recognized workforce development organization, and its coop affiliate Cooperative Home Healthcare Associates provides training and quality jobs for 2,000 owner/caregivers. (Pinkerton supports PHI’s programs for disadvantaged young people.) Since stepping down as PHI’s CEO, Steven has consulted and written widely on low-wage employment issues. Among other things, he’s worked with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and co-chaired the NYC Workforce Funders’ Re-envisioning Strategy Group. In his Visiting Fellow role with the Foundation, Steven will meet with our grantees in the career development field and write a series of brief, action-oriented “Pinkerton Papers” on job-related issues for low-income workers.
Ellis Cose was just a typical Chicago teenager. While a student at Albert G. Lane Technical High School, he wrote a 140 page paper on the city’s 1968 riots. That brought him to the attention of the Poet Laureate of Illinois who invited him to join her writers’ group. And by the age of 19, he had his own column in the Chicago Sun-Times. He has been writing ever since: for the Detroit Free Press and USA Today, as president of the Institute for Journalism Education at UC Berkeley and editorial page editor at the New York Daily News and, for seventeen years, as a columnist for Newsweek. Along the way, Ellis has become one of the foremost commentators on race, class, poverty and prejudice in America. He is the author of a dozen books including the best-selling “Rage of a Privileged Class.” In addition to a little personal project—writing his memoirs—Ellis is working on a historical essay for Pinkerton that looks at the foundation’s fifty years of giving in the context of changing trends in youth development.
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