15th Annual Coleman Awards: Community Visionaries Recognized by the IOP

2020 Coleman Award Winners: Larry Swanson and Linda Dickerson

PITTSBURGH, PA – Pittsburgh’s destiny has always been shaped by its citizens and their commitment to enhancing the region for future generations. The Coleman Award for Excellence in Community Service annually recognizes the contributions of leaders driven by a passion for our community and demonstrated by the lasting impact they have made on our region.

“In the spirit of the award’s namesake, Morton ‘Moe’ Coleman, our awards committee seeks to commemorate and celebrate the work of community leaders whose long-term contributions to the region are distinctive, substantial, lasting and driven by  a commitment to the wellbeing of Western Pennsylvania and its residents,” said Institute of Politics Chair, Mark Nordenberg. “This year’s recipients epitomize the spirit of the Coleman Award.”

The University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics announced that the late Linda Dickerson, longtime consultant, advocate, and community leader, and Larry Swanson, Executive Director of ACTION-Housing have been selected as recipients of the 2020 Coleman Award for Excellence in Community Service.

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.”

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.”

This year’s awardees were recognized last evening during a virtual award ceremony hosted by the Institute of Politics, showcasing their tireless commitment to ensuring our region remains an equitable and compassionate place for citizens to not only live, but thrive. Uniquely, with this year’s virtual event, the Institute advanced Linda’s and Larry’s passion for mentoring and leadership development through a public call to action, encouraging residents to become involved in organizations beloved by the award recipients.

“In light of thepublic health and economic challenges the region is facing during the pandemic, nonprofits consequently also are experiencing decreased volunteerism at a time when the need is most dire,” said Balbier. “Those wishing to honor the legacy of Linda and Larry are encouraged to participate in professional mentorship with organizations such as Leadership Pittsburgh or by mentoring youth who have aged out of foster care through ACTION-Housing.”

Nominations for the 2021 Coleman Award for Community Service will begin in January with a deadline in mid-July.  The IOP will be posting a video of the 2020 Coleman Awards Ceremony shortly.