Laura Ellsworth thinks she was selected as the honoree for the 34th annual Corporate Roast recently held by the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh because of her love of and commitment to children.
That and her thick skin.
"They told me that I was only the second woman to be roasted," she said.
Jan Glick, CEO of the organization, confirmed both.
"We knew of her work with children and wanted to honor that. But we also had heard she had a great sense of humor," Ms. Glick said.
"And, you need that to be the focus of a roast."
Ms. Ellsworth, 45, has a busy career as the partner-in-charge at Jones Day law firm's Pittsburgh office.
She and her husband, Bruce Teitelbaum, have a 16-year-old son, Matt. But she also finds time to be a volunteer with many organizations in the area, many of them related to providing services for children.
"That is one reason I love Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Anyone who helps a child is a hero of mine," she said.
Ms. Ellsworth lives in Ohio Township and serves at the board vice chair for Imani Christian Academy in the East Hills neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
She also serves as the vice chair of the Allegheny Conference, chair of the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh and is on the Women's Leadership Council of United Way.
Ms. Ellsworth also was the recipient of the 2013 Greater Pittsburgh Athena Award for her leadership work and mentoring role with other women.
She comes by her work for the community naturally. Ms. Ellsworth's late father was Robert Ellsworth, an ophthalmologist and leading authority on tumors of the eye.
"He was really considered the expert on retinoblastoma. My dad helped increase the cure rate for this cancer from 10 percent to over 90 percent," she said.
But almost as important as his medical expertise was his willingness to help those without insurance, going so far as to house children from other parts of the world in his own home.
Ms. Ellsworth said her father, who was friends with folks like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope, would impose on his wealthy friends to help him fly children to New York for treatment. But then they would have nowhere to stay.
"So they would end up staying in our apartment," she said. Her mother finally told her father they needed more room, so the couple bought a house and created a place for his patients and their families to stay.
"It was used as a model for the Ronald McDonald House," Ms. Ellsworth said.
It was those early experiences that help shape her own willingness to help others, especially children.
"I know it is cliche, but I really do believe children are our future," she said.
Ms. Ellsworth said the Big Brothers Big Sisters event was great fun, despite the roasting nature.
"They were funny, but very gentle. It really meant a lot to me," she said.
Ms. Glick said Ms. Ellsworth was a good choice as the honoree for their event.
"She spends so much time and talent in the community that she is a treasure. But she also spent a lot of time and energy to make our event a success. She really cares about our community," she said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.