Elisabeth (Lisa) Schroeder, President and Chief Executive Officer
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Lisa is President and Chief Executive Officer of Riverlife, a not-for-profit organization in Pittsburgh, PA established in 1999 by Mayor Tom Murphy to create a vision and master plan for the city’s riverfronts. Under her leadership, A Vision Plan for Pittsburgh’s Riverfronts was the winner of the 2002 AIA Honor Award in Urban Planning and Design and the 2002 Merit Award in Planning from the International Downtown Association.
Growing up in Baltimore, Md., Lisa developed a deep love for cities and has since worked to improve quality of life through downtown urban planning, historic preservation and environmental conservation. At the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, she coordinated restoration planning for a $40M revitalization of the Erie-Lackawanna Ferry terminal, a certified historic site on the Hoboken waterfront. She was Director of the Harlem Research and Survey Project for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (1983-1985). As a Historic Preservation Planning Consultant in the New York region, her clients included the New York State Council on the Arts and the Connecticut State Planning Department. She moved to Pittsburgh from Maine, where she was Vice President of Maine Preservation; Education Director for Greater Portland Landmarks (1995-1998) and Chairman of “the Challenge of Sprawl” 1998 statewide conference.
Ms Schroeder was a featured speaker at the 2007 International Downtown Association Conference in New York, NY, and has been a keynote speaker at sustainability and waterfront development conferences in Lisbon, Naples and Toronto. In 2005 Lisa was honored by the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania for her work in the sciences, and she was recently named one of Pittsburgh’s “Top Environmental Heroes” by Group Against Smog and Pollution.
Lisa is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of William Smith College and received a Masters of Science from Columbia University School of Architecture, where she was awarded a William Kinne Fellows fellowship for her work in teaching children about architecture. She is currently a Director at Dollar Bank and also on the Board at the Regional Industrial Development Corporation and the Pittsburgh Foundation. Ms. Schroeder is also a member of the International Women’s Forum.
Jay Sukernek, Chief Financial Officer
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Jay brings over 11 years of experience in auditing and financial management to Riverlife. Prior to joining Riverlife, Jay was a Senior Audit Manager at Schneider Downs & Co., Inc., where he oversaw the planning and managed the execution of audit, review and compilation engagements for a broad base local and national clients. Jay also gained experience performing special projects for clients including internal control and operational reviews, litigation support and cash flow projections. During his tenure at Schneider Downs, Jay was a member of both the nonprofit and construction industry groups where his responsibilities included business development, coordinating and teaching internal education programs and coordinating client outreach through education programs and writing articles for Schneider Downs’ publications and website.
As a member of the nonprofit and construction and real estate focus groups, Jay concentrated on serving these sectors. His construction clients ranged from engineering firms to local distributors of construction materials, and included medium-sized (revenues up to $50 million annually) local general and specialty contractors as well as large (annual revenues from $400 million to $800 million) national general and specialty contractors. On the nonprofit side, Jay served a broad-range of clients including organizations whose missions were related to environmental advocacy, youth mentoring, cultural arts and health research, as well as private schools, a local chapter of a national relief organization and a large community foundation.
Jay received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond. Jay’s previous involvement in the community included serving on the Audit and Finance Committee of Animal Friends, Inc. and as a member of the Young Constructors group of the Master Builders Association. Currently, Jay serves on the Alumni Recruitment Committee for the University of Richmond and is a member of the American and Pennsylvania Institutes of Certified Public Accountants.
Corey Layman, Assistant Director, Planning & Design
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Corey has spent nine years in the fields of Real Estate Management, Low and Mixed Income Housing Development, Land-use Planning, and Urban Design. Over the last five years while at Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, he was involved in the development review and design review of over $1 billion of new construction. In 2007, Corey began an initiative for a major overhaul of Pittsburgh’s design review process which was realized beginning in 2010 and has resulted in a broader, more formalized and comprehensive review process.
During his time at Pittsburgh City Planning, he served on Pittsburgh’s Solar America Cities team, Riverlife’s Urban Design Committee, the City Planning Department’s Design Team, and the Paris to Pittsburgh Advisory Committee. He co-authored several text amendments to the Pittsburgh Zoning Code, including the Bicycle Parking and Urban Agriculture ordinances. Corey holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a native Virginian, but has lived in Pittsburgh for 15 years and is proud to call it home.
Rhonda Madden, Chief Development Officer
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Rhonda Madden is the Chief Development Officer for Riverlife with over twenty years of nonprofit fundraising and public relations experience primarily focused in land conservation and parks development. Prior to accepting the position at Riverlife, Rhonda oversaw development and communication efforts for Allegheny Land Trust most notably leading community efforts to protect additional conservation areas near North Park and Emerald View Park on Mt. Washington. She also served as Regional Director of Development and Public Relations for The Trust for Public Land’s Mid-Atlantic Office and was responsible for raising support and awareness for the New York City and Newark Parks for People initiatives. She also oversaw external affairs operations for The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
Rhonda has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Richard Stockton College and pursued graduate work in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Pittsburgh Planned Giving Council and serves as a committee member for the PA Parks and Forest Foundation, Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership and Membership and Outreach Program Committee of the national Land Trust Alliance.
Stephan Bontrager, Director of Communications
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Stephan has been a part of the Riverlife team since 2009. Prior to coming on board, Stephan was Director of Education and Community Engagement for public radio station 91.3 fm WYEP, where he also served as the on-air Midday Mix host from 2002-2007. Stephan was honored as one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s ”Top 40 Under 40” in 2008 for his work in developing community public broadcasting programs. He received his Bachelor of Communication degree from Goshen College in Northern Indiana and a Master of Journalism and Mass Communication degree from Point Park University in Pittsburgh. He originally hails from Denver, Colo., and is proud to claim Pittsburgh as his adopted hometown. Stephan is currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Sprout Fund, and as Board Chair for the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE).
Charles Alcorn, Planner
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Chuck has been working for Riverlife since September 2005. Before coming to Riverlife, Chuck worked for the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning and Office of Public Art as a research consultant in the development of Pittsburgh Art in Public Places: Downtown Walking Tour. He also was an assistant for the Charleroi Main Street Program and wrote the Elm Street Plan for the surrounding neighborhood. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies, with a concentration in Urban Planning, from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters of Public Administration degree from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Urban & Regional Affairs and minoring in Public and Nonprofit Management. Chuck is involved with a variety of volunteer activities including PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh, Jane’s Walk Pittsburgh and Lawrenceville Garden Tour. He was honored in 2012 as "Pittsburgh 40 under 40" by Pittsburgh Magazine and PUMP.
Deborah A Cerminara, Executive Assistant
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Deborah (Debby) worked for Equitable Resources for 20 years prior to coming to Riverlife. She worked at various jobs including data entry operator, Senior Secretary and Executive Assistant to the President of Equitable Production. Debby has been at Riverlife for six years.
Amazing before-and-after video of Pittsburgh's riverfronts