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The "Celebration of Champions" program is designed to honor and recognize Pittsburghers who exemplify remarkable leadership, inspiring community achievement and extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit. There are amazing people who are transforming our city every day and our goal is to bring attention to these notable individuals who are doing great work to better our community our city and our country. 


Congratulations to all of the winners of the inaugural Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square Celebration of Champions program! You all exemplify remarkable leadership, inspiring community achievement and extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit. 

Thank you for doing great work for the betterment of our community, our city and our country!


Healthcare Champion

Nancy Stitt, RN BSN // Co-founder; International Transplant Nurses Society

One aspiration Nancy has always had was “to make a difference in the world”. Beginning her nursing career at UPMC upon graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 1979, Nancy found her true passions early on: teaching and transplantation. In 1981, Dr. Thomas E. Starzl began the liver transplant program at UPMC with these patients being on the floor where Nancy worked. Moving to the ICU setting, Nancy had exposure to all transplant patients (liver, kidney, heart, heart-lung) and fell in love with all things transplant. The liver transplant program grew exponentially in the late ‘80s, prompting the addition of necessary critical care units to accommodate the volume of these patients at Presbyterian University Hospital. A new nurse educator position was posted – Liver Transplant ICU Nurse Educator; Nancy was hired and “the rest is history” as Nancy describes.

With hospitals all over the country and outside of the USA starting up transplant programs, teams of doctors and nurses traveled to Pittsburgh to learn about transplantation. Nancy played host to visiting nurses, setting up observation, training, and educational opportunities. Thinking there must be a way to be able to share this transplant knowledge and searching for a nursing organization that had transplant nursing education targeted for the bedside nurse, it became evident it didn’t exist. Introduced to a nurse who worked with kidney transplant patients – Kandy Yarris Newell – the process began of creating a specialty nursing organization dedicated to transplant nurses at the bedside but that would also serve the multi-disciplinary needs of all transplant healthcare professionals. Deciding to go international from the start, the International Transplant Nurses Society (ITNS ) was founded. ITNS is dedicated to providing education and research opportunities for transplant nurses and transplant healthcare professionals worldwide and to develop and provide transplant patient education materials in several languages. With the inaugural symposium being held in Pittsburgh in March of 1992, Nancy was elected the first President and would serve in that position through 1994 and then President Emeritus through 1995. As ITNS moves into its 25th year, Nancy is once again on the Board of Directors, serving as President-Elect, President and then President Emeritus over the next 2 years. 

Her career in transplantation at UPMC provided the opportunity to assist in the designing of a transplant training program for Italian nurses and then to be in Palermo, Italy for seven years (1999-2006) to help build the UPMC-Italy hospital known as ISMETT (Istituto Mediterraneo per i Trapianti e Terapie ad Alta Specializzazione), where she served as the Director of Nursing Education and Research until August 2006. She also had the opportunity in 2010 to train ICU nurses in Gaborone, Botswana (Africa) for a private hospital start-up. She has presented extensively at conferences locally, nationally and internationally and has several publications on transplant topics. Currently an Advanced Clinical Education Specialist at UPMC Presbyterian, Nancy is pursuing a Master of Science in Global and International Education at Drexel University.


Technology Champion

Jim Jen // Alpha Lab

is the Executive Director and co-founder of the AlphaLab accelerator programs for Innovation Works. Founded in 2008, AlphaLab was one of the nation’s first accelerators, providing funding, mentorship, education and networks to speed the growth of promising startups. AlphaLab is consistently ranked among the top accelerators in the US (#16 in 2014). Jim also helped launch the AlphaLab Gear accelerator for hardware and robotics companies in 2013, also one of the first accelerators of its kind. Jim was elected to serve on the Advisory Board of the Global Accelerator Network, the world’s leading association of accelerators for high growth startups. 

Jim has been an active part of the Pittsburgh tech community since 2002 and has led the initial investments in over 100 companies. Working closely with the founding teams of such companies as NoWait, The Resumator, Shoefitr, and Showclix, Jim has mentored and guided the development of some of Pittsburgh’s fastest growing tech companies.

Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Jim built and launched software businesses at venture-backed companies in California and also advised executive management of Fortune 500 companies as a management consultant. Jim holds a BA and MA in Economics and an MBA from Stanford University.


Education Champion

Cindy Bostick // Communities In Schools Pittsburgh Allegheny County

is a bit of a celebrity in the youth and education services field within the City of Pittsburgh. After over 40 years of working in the nonprofit sector serving children, Cindy cannot walk into a room without someone running up to her and reminiscing about her good work over the years. Her tenure in the education and youth field includes employment at Head Start, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Salvation Army, and the Hill House Association before her most current tenure with Communities In Schools Pittsburgh-Allegheny County (CISPAC) for the last 23 years.

Cindy earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Work in the mid 1970’s and has since dedicated her life to serving children through educational programming within nonprofits. She is truly a mission-focused professional and her biggest priority has always been serving her students and ensuring that they are empowered to succeed. Cindy’s current role with CISPAC is Mentor Coordinator within the Be A Middle School Mentor (BAMSM) program at four Northside schools. The BAMSM program is one that that CISPAC facilitates with partnership of the United Way of Allegheny County. Cindy oversees nearly 100 mentor-mentee matches and proudly boasts one of the highest rates of mentor retention within the City of Pittsburgh. Truly this is a testament of her character, charisma, and integrity as well as her dedication to students. 

In addition to her sincere dedication to her work, Cindy enjoys gardening, playing the tambourine, and reading books that range from the Bible, to John Grishman, to legal case studies. She has 3 children and 3 grandchildren and as a life-long resident of the Pittsburgh area she loves to see the Pirates play at PNC Park or see a performance at the Benedum theatre, and every year she waits for the Three Rivers Arts Festival and spends at least an entire day exploring it at Point State Park.


Tourism & Hospitality Champion

Sylvia McCoy // Burgh Bits & Bites (Food Tours)

is the founder and owner of Pittsburgh’s first culinary tour business, ‘Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tour, founded in 2008. ‘Burgh Bits and Bites is consistently ranked by TripAdvisor as one of the top three tour activities in the city, and has won numerous Certificate of Excellence awards.

In the past 7 years, Sylvia and her knowledgeable tour guides have shared Pittsburgh’s unique culinary and historic treasures with thousands of visitors and locals. She encourages everyone to be a tourist in their own city.

Sylvia is a proud first-generation American and Pittsburgher, her parents moved to the United States from Switzerland and Germany. Her language skills include German and Swiss-German.

Sylvia, a mother of two children ages 11 and 9, is also very active in her community, and passionate about community service. She teaches her kids to give back and help whenever possible, and as a family, they volunteer at various functions, including serving meals to the homeless. Sylvia was also recognized as a 2009 Pittsburgh Magazine 40 under 40, and in 2011 received the "Legends of the Strip" award, for her community efforts.

She serves on the board of Destination:Greater Pittsburgh, Neighbors in the Strip, Pittsburgh Public Market, Swiss American Society of Pittsburgh and St. Philip’s church. She serves meals every month at Mooncrest Community Center, an organization near and dear to her heart. She is hoping to donate the $1,000 to the deserving kids and families at the Center.

Sylvia currently resides west of Pittsburgh with her husband and their two children.


First Responders & Military Champion

James O'Connor // The Mission Continues Pittsburgh Platoon

was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and served as a United States Marine. While deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, James earned a Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for exemplary service. Upon leaving active military service, he pursued his education and obtained a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration.

In April of 2014, James returned to Pittsburgh and reported for duty in his community. Collaborating with the Heinz Endowments, Highmark, Mayor Peduto’s office, Checkpoint, The Forbes Funds, The Pittsburgh Penguins, and The University of Pittsburgh, James created innovative ways to engage and support transitioning veterans by creating a network and opportunities for them to continue to serve their community in meaningful ways. He leveraged his military experience and abilities to recruit and lead an all-volunteer force of over 75 veterans called “The Mission Continues 1st Pittsburgh Service Platoon” that executes monthly community service projects in Pittsburgh.

The Mission Continues is an organization that creates opportunities for veterans to reinvest the grit and experience they learned from the military back into their communities. James is currently the local platoon leader. The result has been two-fold. First, Pittsburgh veterans are ignited by service and camaraderie once again. Second, our communities are stronger for embracing their compassion and strength.

James focused the Service Platoon’s first year efforts on community revitalization in Hazelwood. By partnering with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, the Platoon is helping the Hazelwood neighborhood by repairing and renovating the homes of low-income, the elderly, military veterans and individuals with permanent physical disabilities. The Platoon’s goal is to support the Hazelwood community by helping homeowners preserve equity when property values increase and ensure they are included in the new neighboring ALMONO waterfront development. Second, the Service Platoon has teamed up with the Center of Life to rehab the community center’s 3rd floor to make room for new music programs for the local children. The Platoon’s overall vision is to inspire the Hazelwood community members and supporters with their energy, passion, and devotion to service.

James is also a current member of Leadership Pittsburgh’s Community Leadership Course for Veterans. He works in the Business Development Division for Allegheny County’s Department of Economic Development .He lives in Brookline with his wife, Angelica Sirabella - they were married this past January!

Note: If James and his Platoon were recognized as one of the six champions, the $1,000 would be donated to the Hazelwood Community Center – The Center of Life. The funds would empower the platoon to complete a 3rd floor renovation which will be used for a local children’s music program.


Sports, Arts & Entertainment Champion

Joe Negri // Duquesne University / Carnegie Mellon University / University of Pittsburgh

is one of the most recognized names in Pittsburgh music circles and is quite possibly one of the finest jazz guitarists in the country. He was a musical prodigy at age four and was touring nationally by the age of sixteen.  He has performed with such diverse performers as Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Eartha Kitt, Johnny Costa, Yo Yo Ma, and Wynton, Brandord, and Ellis Marsalis. Joe’s career has spanned several decades and he has performed in every aspect of the music business.  

He appears frequently as a guest with the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops with Marvin Hamlish.  He is also featured on the PSO’s “Cinema Serenade” recording with Itzhak Perlman and John Williams.  Joe served as “musical director” at WTAE-TV (the ABC affiliate in Pittsburgh) for more than 20 years. While at WTAE he produced and performed on several award-winning television programs, and he frequently appeared as “Handyman Negri” on PBS’ Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which provided Negri with nationwide television exposure. He has been a “key” performer on that show from its inception. 

Mr. Negri has also distinguished himself as a composer. His composition “The Crossing” was premiered by The River City Brass Band and his jazz choral work “The Mass of Hope”  has received critical and artistic acclaim. 

Joe continues to lead a very active life as a musician, with several CDs to his credit. They include: “Mass of  Hope “ and a Brazilian jazz CD titled  “Afternoon in Rio”.  In 2007 he added a holiday CD  “ Guitars for Christmas “ and his latest studio venture  “Uptown Elegance”  is now available both locally and nationally.  Joe continues to be active in the studio. He has recorded with singer Michael Feinstein and is currently in the studio working on his own recording project.  

He also  shares his knowledge and experience of  jazz guitar through his teaching at the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. Joe has received numerous award and honors. Most recently these include: “Established Artist of the Year” (1999) by the The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Mellon Jazz Community Award (2000), and the coveted “Elsie Award” (2004). Duquesne University recently presented Joe with an Honorary Doctorate in Music that he really cherishes.

Joe continues to live in his favorite city, Pittsburgh, with his wife Joni. They have three daughters and three granddaughters.


Pittsburgh Champion Categories




Pittsburgh is renowned for its incredible medical resources, research and accredited hospitals. The healthcare industry is responsible for much of the economic upswing in Pittsburgh through its cutting edge innovation. Nominate leaders in the healthcare industry that are transforming or influencing healthcare in our city. This could be anyone from a doctor or nurse to a volunteer or donor for one of Pittsburgh’s medical related charities.




Pittsburgh provides the supportive space for inventive individuals to develop and grow their ideas to produce groundbreaking results. The city is also home to a variety of innovative technology companies both big and small that have positioned the city as a leader in the field. We welcome nominations in this category for individuals who help elevate Pittsburgh in the world of technology.




Some of the best colleges, universities and school districts in the country are located right here in Pittsburgh and are credited with fostering extraordinary young minds. Nominations in the category of education will help highlight individuals that teach or provide the essential tools and resources to help our young people succeed to become professionals who positively impact our region.


Tourism & Hospitality


Most livable, best place to work, best place to live- these are just some of the recognitions Pittsburgh has received in recent years. Pittsburgh tourism is a booming industry that has created thousands of jobs and resulted in billions of dollars in revenue. Nominations for this category will recognize individuals who help make our city a desirable place to live, work and visit.


First Responders & Military


Pittsburgh has always had a strong sense of community and military support both locally and nationally. Nominations in this category will honor and identify local active and retired service men and women and first responders who risk their lives daily for our safety and independence, as well as related nonprofits who shine an important light on supporting the service community.


Sports, Art & Entertainment


With a bustling cultural district, high profile sports teams and now a revenue streaming entertainment industry, Pittsburgh has been recognized worldwide for its influential sports, arts and entertainment. Nominations will recognize individuals in the sports, arts and entertainment industries that are true ambassadors for Pittsburgh. These can be people who provide us with cultural experiences, give back to the community, or play an instrumental role in putting Pittsburgh on the map in the entertainment industry.


Nominees must demonstrate excellence in their field through leadership, achievement and volunteerism and live or work in the Pittsburgh region. Entries are being accepted through April 15, 2015 online here. Participants may nominate themselves or others by simply submitting a nomination, demonstrating how they exhibit leadership in their field and why they should be considered a local Champion.


After the nomination process is over on April 15, 2015, the general public will have the opportunity to vote for a nominee to win in each category. Voting period will last from May 19, 2015 through May 25, 2015. This is subject to change. The nominees with the highest vote totals in each category will be submitted for final review and approval of the Sponsor, based on all contest criteria and at its sole discretion. The winners will be recognized and awarded prizes at a special invitation-only awards ceremony at the hotel. The nominee with the most votes in each category will be named the “champion.” In addition to winning prizes, each champion will be asked to choose a favorite charity to which the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square will donate $1,000 to on their behalf.  Winners will be notified via email on May 29, 2015.


  • Dinner for four at Trackside at Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel @ Station Square, and 100,000 Starpoints®. Learn more about our Starwood Preferred Guest® program benefits.
  • $1,000.00 (USD) donation made directly to a designated nonprofit organization* selected by each winner

*Subject to Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square final approval.


On Thursday, June 18, 2015 the six champions will be recognized at a special dinner reception held at Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square. Champions are encouraged to invite guests to enjoy an evening of elegance featuring entertainment, cocktails, dinner and special award ceremony. Local dignitaries and leaders will be in attendance to celebrate the six remarkable champions and showcase these individuals extraordinary commitment to positively transforming our community.