by Juliet Izon | April 21, 2014 | People
They are the news makers, the go-getters, and the style setters, working in front of the cameras and behind the scenes to make Philadelphia a better place to live and work. In their own words, nine of the city’s most influential women talk about their challenges, triumphs, and future plans.
Ewers may work behind the scenes at the Kimmel Center but she’s no stranger to the stage: She’s also an accomplished opera stage director.
Definition of power: The ability to inspire others, to embrace the vision, and then to work together toward its achievement.
My mentor: I’ve always had one, if not two, sometimes three, mentors at a time, for different purposes. I feel very strongly about the value and importance of having mentors and actually being a mentor. I would say the most influential was Lotfi Mansouri. He was the general director of the San Francisco Opera and was my mentor for close to 30 years.
Greatest accomplishment: From the day I started, in July 2007, to April 2008, we were able to retire a $30 million construction debt, build an endowment from $40 million to $72 million, and garner a $10 million gift to start our festival. And we closed the season in the black with a $1.6 million surplus. So we’ve been busy. I’ve had plenty of other successes at the Kimmel Center, but I would say that is the greatest. It made such a difference in the way the city perceived the Kimmel Center after that. It was like a cloud was lifted from management and from the board.
About the arts: I believe that we are feeding people’s souls. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have something that inspires you, that lifts you up, that takes you to a new realm, that helps you connect to your inner self in a way.... I just don’t think without the arts that is possible. The vision for the Kimmel Center is transforming lives daily through the arts. We’ve thought about that for a long time. Whose life are we transforming? It’s everyone. It’s the person on stage, the staff member who’s working here, it’s the little kid who comes into the plaza and looks up and sees that fabulous glass art.
Words to live by: To me, the word “no” just means a longer time getting to “yes.”
Roxborough High School is one of the area schools that benefit from Nutter’s stewardship of Philadelphia Academies.
Definition of power: It’s being able to get things done through passion and influence versus compliance and force.
Role model: My first role model was my mother, who really showed me the power of love and emotional strength. She died several years ago, so I often tap into the lessons that she taught me. But, I have a lot of other mentors, too, and they showed me different things. One of them is Joan Myers Brown, who is the founder of Philadanco; she’s an interesting woman. I’ve known her since I was in high school, and she has showed me that if you have a vision, you can make it a reality because that’s what she did with her dance company. Finally—and this point is dear to my heart—I would say every young person who is in my life teaches me that anything is possible when adults do what they’re supposed to do. So I count every one of those young people as a role model and mentor as well.
Morning routine: When I’m out of my routine, it seems like life doesn’t happen the way it should the rest of the day. I always start with a prayer and meditation. It’s something like asking God to help me be the best person that I can be today, asking for help in fighting for what’s right and what’s just. I ask for help staying focused so that any nonsense doesn’t distract me. The second thing I do is work out. Cycling’s my thing.
Advice for other women: Have a diverse network and loyal posse of friends. And when I say diverse, I mean diverse in every way—diverse in thought, diverse in age, race, gender, sexual identity, culture, socioeconomic class. To me, diversity is what helps you understand the world. And make sure that this network—this posse—tells you the truth, but also has your back. It should be a group that celebrates your success and shares your vision for yourself.
Words to live by: It is actually a tiny proverb that sits on my wall—“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”
Turney and Safran’s latest restaurant, Little Nonna’s, joins the couple’s collection of businesses in Midtown Village, the neighborhood they helped recreate with the opening of Lolita more than a decade ago.
Greatest accomplishment: Marcie: We kind of get credit for revitalizing this area of Philadelphia, so I’m proud of how we went about it. We didn’t have money, and we didn’t come from money. We opened a small store on zero-percent credit cards. Six months later, they were paid off, and we just started saving money. And now, we own everything. It took 10 years, but now there are no loans out and we’re getting offers to build everywhere. But we’ve done something awesome in Philadelphia, and you can’t beat that.
Life under the Philadelphia microscope: Valerie: I don’t necessarily feel it. We wake up every day, we work hard, and we like what we do. Philadelphia has been good to us. Everyone has been very supportive; people look up to us. For us, at the end of the day, what you put in, you get back, and Philadelphia works that way, too. We’re lucky to be in a city that has responded to us, and we are where we are because of two things: our employees and the people of Philadelphia who come to our businesses and support us.
Role model: Marcie: We love Martha Stewart. She is a strong woman in business. I never really worked under big name chefs, so we’ve both just figured it out. I’ve worked for smaller restaurants where I had to be the chef and run the front of the house. It made me a better businesswoman.
Overcoming obstacles: Valerie: I always say the first thing is to get a good night’s rest. If I’m unsure or frustrated, I just calm down and get a good night’s sleep because in the morning the way you think about things is different. When I wake in the morning, I think, “How do I deal with this objectively?” I know I’ll work hard, and I’ll figure it out.
Pinkenson, seen here in City Hall, says the iconic structure is a favorite location among filmmakers and can be seen in films like Law Abiding Citizen.
Words to live by: The one song that I always come back to is “Beautiful” by Carole King—“You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face.” I’ve always been a huge optimist, and I really believe that you’ve got to put on a happy face. I always used to say if you want to be a thief, you have to go out and steal something every day. Likewise if you want to be a happy person, you have to wake up in the morning with a smile on your face and just go for it. It’s infectious.
Overcoming obstacles: Everybody has obstacles, so I try really hard not to jump to conclusions and to take my time to assess how important that problem really is before I make any decisions. Whenever possible, I like to sleep on decisions, to think before I act. There’s nothing worse than doing something that you can’t go back on because you may have misjudged.
About film-making: I work in the most exciting, best industry in the world. I think that it is a hallmark of our culture and the most important export of the United States. It’s also a team business. You work with very smart people on complicated projects for very finite periods of time, like running multimillion dollar businesses over the span of a year. Then, in the end, when it’s done, they have a credit roll and your name is attached to it. There’s nothing more satisfying in the world than to attach yourself to a project that, when it’s completed, is going to be there for eternity.
Philadelphia then and now: It’s changed dramatically. It’s gone from a sleepy, old metropolis that was overlooked to actively the fourth largest city in the country. Now it’s much more dynamic, more international; the cultural life is spectacular. This is where I really want to be, and I think the city is getting better and better all the time.
Hughes’s local American Red Cross chapter serves some 4 million people in five counties.
Greatest accomplishment: My son, Alex. He will graduate from West Point on May 28, and when he graduates, he will be a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And on a professional level, I’m still achieving. There’s much more to do, and I’m not done yet.
Overcoming obstacles: If it’s in your way, go over it, go under it, go around it; don’t stop. If you really believe that you’re on the right path, don’t stop. You will always have to believe in yourself if no one else does. You know the Diana Ross song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”? That’s what you should have running through your head all the time: You can get it done.
Life in Philadelphia: Philadelphia is good to you if you are good to it, and Philadelphia has been phenomenal to me. This city has embraced me as if I were one of its own. I adore Philadelphia—nothing in the world is more beautiful than riding down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I am in no way naïve about our challenges with the school district and our tax infrastructure. We also have neighborhoods that need to be revitalized, but we’ve got to hold our heads up and be proud of who we are.
About nonprofit work: It is a profession that requires you to be sharp—I mean intellectually sharp—at all times. You really don’t know what’s going to confront you on any given day. Disasters don’t plan. It requires you to be incredibly flexible. I start my day very early in the morning, I’m in meetings all day long, and when I leave, I have events to go to. I have to keep the community thinking about the Red Cross; it exists solely by the donations of our neighbors, so it has to be on people’s minds.
Words to live by: “Impossible is nothing.” It’s a quote that I take from Muhammad Ali. What I tell students when I go out in the community is that if you set your goals high, there are many paths that will take you there.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Seacrest Studio, a broadcast media center, is one of many programs Bell has established.
Role models: I’m a big fan of Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright, women who have been influencers on the world stage and who have been in traditionally male roles.
Greatest accomplishment: Starting off as a staff nurse and now being in a position where I’m running an organization—a large hospital ranked number one in the country—has been a big accomplishment. Personally, it’s also my children. Many of them are out working now and the youngest is in college, but to be able to have raised a family and been in an executive role to me is a big accomplishment.
Philadelphia then and now: I love Philadelphia because it’s rich in history, and I’m a big American history buff. I also think that in the past, Philadelphia was very culturally diverse, but more segregated culturally. Now I see much more integration here, so I think that’s a really good thing. There’s a lot of activity among the neighborhood associations, which is really exciting: People taking pride in their neighborhood and keeping it safe and paying attention to how it’s developing.
About healthcare: We’ve just had the advent of the Affordable Care Act, which is changing the landscape of healthcare. It’s now being regulated in a different way, and I think there’s a lot of uncertainty in our industry. With that said, healthcare is a very important part of the economic viability of Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Hospitals and healthcare providers are important employers and really important to the economy, so it’s imperative for people like me to make sure we understand what’s happening with healthcare reform and to ensure that our institutions continue to thrive.
Charity of choice: CHOP. People don’t understand that we depend on philanthropic support for some of the unique things we do. I know what we can do with the money that can make a difference in the lives of children and their families.
Rosanio’s The Star Group has spearheaded marketing campaigns for The National Museum of American Jewish History and Virtua Hospital.
Words to live by: “Tenacity” is probably my favorite word because it takes tenacity to do pretty much everything and not give up. “Culture” is also really important to me: My dream of opening my own company was about having a culture that was collaborative and team oriented. And maybe “transparency.” Trying to be as open and honest with people has served me well; people know that I speak from the heart and that seems to resonate.
Overcoming obstacles: I surround myself with people who are believers in getting over the hurdles. We have an incredible talent base at Star that’s taken us 29 years of investment to build. I would say that’s what gets us by, what sets us apart. We’re not just doing the same old, same old; we look beyond that for other ways to help drive our clients’ business.
About marketing: It is a very colorful industry with the most colorful people in terms of personality and chutzpah. They’re just fun to be around and some of them are crazy, outright crazy. We embrace that in people. I think we have a culture that allows people to have the ability to be their own selves. They’re the people who can drive a business with their ideas, their tenacity, their personalities, and the entrepreneurialism that they bring to a client’s business.
Life in Philadelphia: If you grew up here, it’s hard to not love Philadelphia; there are so many wonderful things about it. I am really excited to see the things that have evolved, like the Avenue of the Arts.
Getting started: I knew it so early on; I was lucky. At 16, when I got my first toe into the business, I was totally fascinated by making images, building brands, telling stories, and doing things that were emotionally connected and pulling at people’s heartstrings.
Docktor’s reach in the world of local real estate extends from the affluent suburbs to the Symphony House, seen here, along the Avenue of the Arts.
Definition of power: It doesn’t come from making people do what you want them to do but rather the ability to convince others to understand and support your vision. The key is to lead in a way that people want to follow you in order to achieve their own goals as well.
Advice for younger women: Don’t surround yourself with negative energy and don’t allow it to control you. Most of the time things will work out if you work really hard, stay focused, and follow your dream. Mentoring is also really important for women. Mentoring other women and helping them to be successful is very fulfilling. Lastly, don’t wait till the end of your career to give back. So many people just work on their careers, and it’s only at the end that they start giving back.
About real estate: Being able to watch people achieve their dreams is just an amazing thing. We do something special—many achieve their dreams in home ownership and so many find financial security in owning their home. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. It’s great to see the joy, especially when people buy their first home and they watch their kids grow. I always consider it a happy time for people; it’s the next step in their lives.
Charity of choice: Fox & Roach Charities, which I believe in and am a part of. The mission is to help families in distress. Every dollar earned goes back to the community we serve. The agents in each office choose charities in their surrounding area.
Words to live by: I have three sayings that I like. First, life is not a rehearsal and you have to truly live life every day. Second, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The last is never argue with a fool because you will become one and you won’t be able to tell the difference.
photography by Jared Castaldi
June 29, 2018