Coleman Award for Excellence in Community Service


The University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics recognizes that the collective identity of any region is largely demonstrated by the overall values and priorities embraced by the people who live there. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, we place significant value on individuals who have a strong commitment to serve the region. To honor one of our community’s greatest civic servants and to recognize those who have followed in his path, the Institute of Politics created the Morton “Moe” Coleman Award for Excellence in Community Service.

       History of the Coleman Award

The purpose of the Coleman Award is twofold. It creates a lasting tribute to the Institute’s founding director, Moe Coleman, for the substantial and enduring contributions he has made to the Southwestern Pennsylvania region in the areas of public policy and governance, education, health and human services, and human equity. The award also recognizes elected and nonelected community leaders who, by personal example and sustained generosity, have made a significant impact in the region. Nominees for this award should be outstanding individuals whose leadership and efforts have advanced the quality of life enjoyed by the citizens of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

2020 Awardees

          Linda Dickerson 

In a lifetime dedicated to improving the condition of others and advancing the rights of those with disabilities, Linda Dickerson played a pivotal lobbying role in the passage  of the Americans with Disabilities Act while offering contributions to urgent social issues addressed by the Clemente Foundation, The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Life’s Work, Lydia’s Place, and many other regional philanthropic institutions. Linda’s posthumous receipt of this award acknowledges her unwavering passion, investment, and effectiveness in addressing disability and disenfranchisement throughout the Pittsburgh region, as well as her deep-rooted devotion to helping others.

“Among other contributions,” said Nordenberg, “Linda’s leadership in over two dozen boards and task forces ranging from the Three Rivers Communities Foundation to the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to the National Aviary to Carnegie Mellon University, captures the degree to which her spirit of  community building was manifested broadly in both advocacy for the underserved and the advancement of institutions making a difference in our home region.”

           Larry Swanson

Executive Director of ACTION-Housing, Larry Swanson, is also recognized as a Coleman Award recipient this year for his esteemed and tireless commitment to mentorship, community-building, and the preservation of affordable housing in the Pittsburgh area. Acknowledged region-wide as a leader who selflessly connects and supports others while serving as a resource to organizations in need of guidance, Larry has worked for more than forty years to provide mentorship, housing, support, and service-centered programming to low-income and at-risk individuals.

“Larry sets himself apart as a committed servant leader who exemplifies Moe Coleman’s core principle of ‘finding common ground’ to mobilize change for the betterment of the region,” said Samantha Balbier, Institute of Politics director. “He engages every individual in our communities with empathy and respect, driven by his generosity, innovation, and active mentorship of new leaders throughout our region.”

Award Criteria

The award recognizes and honors an exceptional individual who makes community service a way of life. This individual must exemplify the best in community service through a sense of caring and responsibility for others and must do so in a way that connects citizens and solves community problems.

Specifically, the honoree is an individual who, over a sustained period of time:

  • Gives freely and unselfishly of his or her time to community activities;
  • Inspires others to serve and acts as a role model;
  • Creates connections in the community that enhance coordination and collaboration in solving our region’s challenges;
  • Has a positive impact upon the direction and success of community projects, programs or individuals; and
  • Improves the lives of others.

To be eligible for the award, an individual must demonstrate significant and lasting contributions to the community beyond what is expected as a part of his or her professional life and/or demonstrate service to the community through participation on boards, volunteerism, and other activities that lie outside the scope of his or her current career.

Past Coleman Award Honorees

Please note that the titles and organizations listed reflect the position held by the awardee when he/she received the award.

 Year Honorees
2006 Moe Coleman, director emeritus, Institute of Politics
2007 Maxwell King, executive director, Fred Rogers Center, Saint Vincent College
2008 Marc Cherna, director, Allegheny County Department of Human Services;
Jim Rohr, president and CEO, PNC Financial Services Group
2009 Karen Wolk Feinstein, president and CEO, Jewish Healthcare Foundation;
David J. Malone, president and CEO, Gateway Financial Services
2010 David E. Epperson, dean emeritus and professor emeritus, University of Pittsburgh
2011 Helen S. Faison, former teacher, principal, and superintendent, Pittsburgh Public Schools, and community leader in education
2012 Henry S. Beukema, executive director, McCune Foundation;
Morgan K. O’Brien, president and CEO, Peoples Natural Gas
2013 Philip B. Hallen, president emeritus, Falk Foundation;
Linda McKenna Boxx, chairman, Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation
2014 Edie Shapira, president, board of directors, The Pittsburgh Foundation;
Rick Stafford, distinguished service professor of public policy, Carnegie Mellon University
2015 Bill Isler, former president and CEO, The Fred Rogers Center;
Charles Queenan, chairman emeritus, K&L Gates LLP
2016 Linda Lane, former superintendent, Pittsburgh Public Schools;
Bill Strickland, president and CEO, Manchester Bidwell Corporation
2017 Terry Miller, director, Institute of Politics, University of Pittsburgh
Laurie Mulvey, former director of service demonstrations, Office of Child Development, University of Pittsburgh
Tracy Soska, assistant professor and director of COSA, School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh
2018 Laura Ellsworth, partner-in-charge of global community service initiatives, Jones Day
Saleem Ghubril, executive director, The Pittsburgh Promise
Aradhna Oliphant, president and CEO, Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc. 
2019 Fredrick W. Thieman, Henry Buhl, Jr. Chair for Civic Leadership, The Buhl Foundation 
2020 Larry Swanson, executive director, ACTION Housing
Linda Dickerson, CEO, The Dickerson Group