United Way selects first female to chair its board
April 19, 2017 9:36 AM
By Joyce Gannon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Karen Larrimer, a top executive at PNC Financial Services Group, on Wednesday became chairman of the board at the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
She is the first woman to head the charity’s board of directors.
“It’s a significant development,” said Robert Nelkin, president of the organization that funds nonprofits that address human needs in Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette, and southern Armstrong counties.
“United Way is a venerable organization that’s been around for more than 100 years and it’s always been led by men.”
That’s a result of few women holding top jobs at Pittsburgh corporations, Mr. Nelkin said.
Ms. Larrimer, 54, is executive vice president, head of retail banking and chief customer officer at PNC.
The chair of United Way “traditionally has gone to one of the top leaders in [the region’s] manufacturing, finance or legal communities and generally those individuals have been men,” said Mr. Nelkin.
She succeeds Jack Barbour, executive chairman of the law firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney.
“There is no one more qualified to take on this position; she is definitely the woman for the job,” Mr. Barbour said in a statement.
Other prominent philanthropies that women have chaired are the Pittsburgh Foundation, where Edie Shapira became the first female chair in 2013; and the Heinz Endowments, where Teresa Heinz Kerry was chair for 25 years.
Mrs. Heinz Kerry took over as chair of the endowments in 1991 after her first husband, Sen. H. John Heinz III, was killed in a plane crash. She stepped down last year and was succeeded by her son, Andre Heinz.
Ms. Larrimer, whose term is for two years, was unavailable for comment but said in a prepared statement she became active in United Way because it helps solve challenging problems in the Pittsburgh community.
“It is vital that all children see first-hand that every person can make a difference to improve the quality of life we have here,” she said. “I am gratified to help lead an organization that fosters these values.”
United Way’s 2015 fundraising drive raised $35 million.
Ms. Larrimer was co-chair of that year’s workplace campaign, is a member of United Way’s executive committee, and has been a member of its Women’s Leadership Council for nearly 15 years.
In her statement, Ms. Larrimer said she wants to develop a five-year strategic plan for United Way, expand participation by millennials, and find new ways to engage with local businesses including small- and mid-size companies.
Joyce Gannon: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1580.
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