About Us

Board & Leadership

The Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition is currently served by its elected 2021 Board of Directors, consisting entirely of residents or business representatives of the Squirrel Hill area. Board members serve 3-year terms with two-term limits. Board meetings occur on the 3rd week of every month and are free and open to the public. To find out where this month’s meeting is held or to be on the agenda, please contact us at 412-422-7666 or info@shuc.org. Be sure to check our Events Calendar to verify the date and time of upcoming meetings or search the archive for our past meeting minutes.

2021-2022 Executive Officers

Martha Isler, President

Martha “Mardi” Isler defines the term super-volunteer. Mardi is a founding board member and president of Allies for Children, Chair of the City of Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission, a long-time leader of Tree Pittsburgh, and past president of Uncover Squirrel Hill, to name just a few. In 2009, Mardi led the Gateway Committee to develop a plan for the revitalization of the public spaces in the Forward-Murray area. The initial results included a new “Welcome to Squirrel Hill” sign on Forward Avenue, new street lamps and trees along with Murray, and a renewed Post Office parklet at Murray and Darlington. Mardi’s leadership at Uncover Squirrel Hill has been crucial to the success of the Squirrel Hill Night Markets. Mardi and her husband, Bill, have lived in the same house in Squirrel Hill since 1984 and raised their son there. Mardi shops, eats, and sleeps Squirrel Hill.

Dalia Belinkoff, Co-Vice President

Dalia is a retired attorney who worked for many years for the National Labor Relations Board. Having enjoyed the many perks of living in Squirrel Hill, including easy access to stores, entertainment, libraries, parks, and bike trails, she thought working on behalf of SHUC would be an ideal way of giving back to the community.

Erik Wagner, Co-Vice President

Erik is a Commercial Realtor that has lived in Squirrel Hill all his life and has been involved with SHUC since the mid-70’s. He has chaired the Zoning and Land Use committees and co-chaired the Building committee. He also founded the commercial division of Howard Hanna Co. Erik is a member of numerous community and professional organizations, such as the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the National Association of Realtors, and the Squirrel Hill Historical Society.

Raymond N. Baum, Secretary

Ray Baum is an attorney whose practice is focused on real estate development and
transactions, non-profit organizations, affordable housing and community development. Ray
is a past president of SHUC and is currently corporate secretary.
Ray has served on the boards and committees of many Squirrel Hill and city-wide and
community public education focused organizations. He presently also serves on the boards
of Rising Tide Partners and Friends of the Neill Log House and provides pro bono legal
services to several non-profit organizations.
Ray and both his children are products of the Pittsburgh Public schools. His two Pittsburgh
grandsons will be part of the Allderdice graduation class of 2026.

Lisa Steindel, Assistant Treasurer

Lisa Steindel is a native of Erie, PA and a 1974 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. She holds a MA in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling and is the wife of Beth Shalom Rabbi Emeritus, Stephen Steindel. Lisa has served on many local boards including Community Day School, Hillel Academy, and The Rainbow Kitchen. As a Career Counselor she established her own practice, What Should I Be, LLC, and later served as the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh office of The American Jewish Committee. She also served on the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board for 4 years and continues her commitment to a responsible Judicial system. The Steindels have 9 grandchildren, enjoying 3 of them here in Squirrel Hill.

Paul Katz, Treasurer

2021 Members of The Board

Anna Batista

Jill Lipman Beck

Jill is an attorney on Blank Rome’s civil litigation team. She represents and advises businesses and financial institutions, both in the role of plaintiff and defendant, in matters of corporate and commercial litigation; represents plaintiffs in protection from abuse cases; assists individuals facing housing insecurity, and regularly volunteers in support of voter protection efforts. Jill also serves as a member of her office’s Pro Bono Coordinating Committee and the pro bono working groups of the firm at large addressing civil rights, systemic criminal justice reforms, and voter protection. She is co-chair of Blank Rome’s working group aimed at protecting the right to protest. Prior to joining Blank Rome, Jill was a judicial law clerk on the Pennsylvania Supreme and Superior Courts, respectively, drafting judicial decisions addressing all areas of Pennsylvania law. She began her legal career as an attorney for KidsVoice where she represented abused, neglected, and at-risk children in Allegheny County. Jill has been a member of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition Board since 2019, serving as the chair of its Events Committee. Jill previously served as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Allegheny County Bar Association, and as a member of Gilda Radner Leadership Board of Gilda’s Club of Western Pennsylvania (now Our Clubhouse). Jill has lived in Squirrel Hill with her husband and two children since 2007.

Guy Costa

Guy is the retired City of Pittsburgh’s Chief Operations Officer (COO). His retirement came after being employed for 40 years by the City and Allegheny County and today Guy proudly serves as one of the Sq. Hill Urban Coalition Board Members. Prior to becoming the City’s COO Guy served as the City’s Director of Public Works and The Executive Director of the City’s Parking Authority. Guy is a forty-five year resident of Sq. Hill. He’s a proud graduate of Linden Elementary School, Taylor Allderdice High School and Duquesne University. He currently serves on the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Board and formerly served on the Pittsburgh P3R Marathon, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Three Rivers Regatta Boards and he oversaw the operations for the City of Pittsburgh’s Great Race. During Guy’s career he worked very closely with the Sq. Hill Urban Coalition and the Sq. Hill Business District in bringing many projects and improved services to the neighborhood.

Vivian Didomenico

Vivian joined Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition after many years of ownership of the residential and commercial real estate in the Squirrel Hill Area. She has been engaged in Squirrel Hill since 1974 and is very proud of Squirrel Hill’s past, its present, and its future. She is also very committed to maintaining a viable commercial corridor of Forbes and Murray. With her husband, Rocco, they are supporters and one of the sponsors of the yearly Treasures Dinner to help assure a stronger coalition. Sunday dinners with her family, which include twelve grandchildren, is the highlight of her week.

Lori Fitzgerald

Lori is a practicing architect with Bostwick Design Partnership, as Director of the Pittsburgh Office and Practice Leader for Community Projects. She has taught as an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, from which she is an alum. Lori is a LEED Accredited Professional (BD+C) and WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP), has completed comprehensive project management training from the Project Management Institute (PMI), and is a graduate of the City of Pittsburgh’s Civic Leadership Academy. She is a native Pittsburgher, and has lived in Squirrel Hill since 1999. In her SHUC board role, she facilitates communication between various neighborhood stakeholders such as property owners, developers, and city representatives. With her appreciation for our regional history, especially from the late 1700s, she is helping the Squirrel Hill Historic Society and Friends of Neill Log House work to stabilize that historic structure in Schenley Park. She infuses her practice with her strong personal interests and beliefs in people (collaboration, team integration), place (context, community, history) and purpose (environment, experience). Lori, her husband and their teenage son enjoy living within walking distance of Schenley Park and the Squirrel Hill Business District.

Marshall Hershberg

Before his involvement with SHUC, Marshall used his PhD and MBA degrees in support of a happy career in the social sciences: college teaching of political science and business; conducting market research and strategic planning for hospitals; owning and operating a management consulting firm serving healthcare and government organizations; executive positions at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and at Pittsburgh’s Jewish Association on Aging; and grant-writing and program development at Goodwill Industries serving the Greater Johnstown region. His involvement in SHUC is the best way he could think of contributing to the well-being, vibrancy, and improvement of the neighborhood he loves so much. Participating in SHUC and its myriad activities and interests has given great meaning and enjoyment to his time in retirement. He and his wife, Eleanor, find Squirrel Hill particularly attractive because of its convenience, strong cultural, commercial, residential, and recreational amenities; Schenley and Frick Parks, as well as many trails and by-ways. Squirrel Hill’s proximity, connections, and transit options to Oakland, Shadyside, downtown, and all points beyond, make Squirrel Hill one of the most important parts of Pittsburgh and the region.

Michael Douglas Henderson

Born in the Hudson Valley near Albany, New York, Michael first came to Western Pennsylvania to attend Penn State University where he received a B.A. in history. He also holds an M.A. in American History from SUNY at Albany. Michael is an 18 year veteran of the National Park Service, having served as Park Superintendent for the Morristown National Historical Park in New Jersey; the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites in Hyde Park, NY; and the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook, NY. Currently, he pursues his interests in historic preservation and planning through service on the boards of the Morris County Trust for Historic Preservation and the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. Michael moved to Pittsburgh eleven years ago and settled into Squirrel Hill with his partner, Sam Taylor, and two fox terriers. Having lived many places Michael says Pittsburgh is his favorite, and it was this interest in his new home that encouraged him to first, volunteer for the SHUC magazine committee and subsequently join the SHUC Board. In addition to his unusual interest in, and knowledge of, the life of former President Martin Van Buren, Michael is also an avid collector of antique porcelain and oriental rugs.

Heather Graham

Heather has been in the spa business for over 17 years. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2013 and soon opened the European Wax Center at 5854 Forbes Avenue. It’s her calling: “I love what I do because it allows me to meet new people constantly as well as support the local economy. I hire and employ local people who can create a career for themselves. Knowing that I can provide a quality work environment that lets people be self-sufficient is really rewarding. I also love helping people feel good and help them take a few moments out of their day to be focused on themselves. I think that sometimes, women have a tendency to not put themselves first and I like that I can be a part of something that forces you to put you first. We all deserve ‘me’ time. Even if it is for your eyebrow wax! That is important. You have to feel good about yourself!” Heather Graham is also the President of the board of directors of Uncover Squirrel Hill which is Squirrel Hill’s Chamber of Commerce and the Coalition’s partner in preserving, improving and celebrating Squirrel Hill. Heather has played a key role on the USH board and has been an invaluable part of planning and carrying out major community events such as The Squirrel Hill Night Markets and our annual Lunar New Year celebrations. She is motivated to promote our business and professional community. Heather’s smitten with Squirrel Hill’s culture and quality of life, “I find all walks of life are this neighborhood. I love that you can walk on the street and be greeted with a smile multiple times. This area makes me feel alive. I do love all the events we (USH) have helped sustain and create and I am proud to be a part of that.” And that’s why Heather and so many others are happy to support our community.

Barbara Grover

Upon retirement in 2004, Barb became aware of the litter in Squirrel Hill and joined a group of people who wanted to DO SOMETHING about it! She has been involved in the Litter Patrol and the Coalition ever since. She learned that keeping a neighborhood strong and vibrant is no accident. A lot of people give their time, energy, and intellect to make that happen!

Lisa Murphy

Lisa joined the SHUC board in June 2016 and has been an active member since moving to Squirrel Hill in 2010. Lisa is a certified urban planner with a B.A. in Economics and a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning, specializing in transportation, land use, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Lisa works part-time for a consulting firm creating transportation plans for cities, counties, and regional organizations. Lisa and her husband, Rick, have three children and enjoy the walkability and thriving business district of Squirrel Hill.

Joseph Ott

Joe has worked in community development for most of his career, including ten years of service with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland as its Pittsburgh-based Regional Community Development Advisor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Duquesne University and a master’s degree in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to his work with SHUC, he serves on several non-profit boards focused on serving low and moderate-income households and communities. He currently works at BNY Mellon as their CRA Officer.

Mary Shaw

Mary has lived in or near Squirrel Hill for half a century (mostly just west of Beeler St, which isn’t technically Squirrel Hill but feels more like Squirrel Hill than it does like Oakland; there were also a few years in Greenfield) and currently live near Schenley golf course. Her principal interest is outdoor recreation, especially bicycle and pedestrian issues. She is currently on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University.


Board Members Emeritus

Ceci Sommers

Ceci is a retired public broadcasting executive having served in management and on-air positions at WTTW in Chicago and WQED in Pittsburgh. As producer and host of the Sunday Arts Magazine in Pittsburgh, she had the pleasure of interviewing many celebrities in the arts including everyone from Tiny Tim to Pavorotti. She continued to do on-air fundraising after retirement and raised thousands of dollars for WQED-FM, which she and her late husband, Jack Sommers, founded in 1973. When she asked friends why they gave when she was on the air, some explained: You remind me of my mother telling me to eat my peas. She has brought those fundraising skills to many nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh over the years including the Coalition, Highmark, the Middle East Institute, the Pittsburgh Opera, and many more. She has four grown children and four grandchildren.


Staff

Maria Cohen, Executive Director

Maria Cohen became the Executive Director of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition in August of 2019 and supports the many programs and initiatives that have a positive impact on the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. In addition to being a long-time volunteer for a number of local nonprofits, Maria holds an MBA in International Marketing and Finance from DePaul University and earned her LEED Green Associate credential. Her background includes marketing, high-level recruiting, office operations, and budget management. Maria has been a Squirrel Hill resident for over 15 years with her husband Josh, a local Chiropractor, her two teenage sons, Cole and Julien, and their family’s dogs Julio and Bruno.

Sophie Bean, Administrative Assistant

Sophie Bean is our Part-Time Administrative Assistant. A native of eastern Pennsylvania, Sophie earned a degree in Geography and Urban Studies from Temple University and worked for several urban redevelopment and design organizations in Philadelphia. In addition to helping SHUC in myriad ways, Sophie has worked in the restaurant industry for a decade. We’re delighted she recently moved to Pittsburgh and joined SHUC!

Melissa Eppihimer, Editor-in-Residence

Melissa Eppihimer is an art historian with experience working in university classrooms, archaeological sites, and museums. She has been engaged in academic publishing for more than a decade, including as the author of a book, and is thrilled to be applying skills acquired in that arena to her work on Squirrel Hill Magazine.

about SHUC

Preserving, Improving, and Celebrating the Quality of Life in Squirrel Hill

For forty-nine years, the Coalition has been an active and important link in the community. It has served as a sounding board for new ideas, as well as a “watchdog” in the areas of public safety, education, residential quality, the business district, and parks and open space. With its focus on the quality of life in the 14th Ward, SHUC continues to monitor activities and future developments in the community through a range of standing committees.

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