Business leader is new chair of August Wilson Center Board
PITTSBURGH, Feb. 23, 2017 – The six-member board of the August Wilson Center has unanimously elected Pittsburgh developer and community leader Michael Polite as its new chair for this year.
Polite, who joined the board in August 2015, is majority owner of Ralph A. Falbo Inc., a developer of unique and innovative urban residential properties. He succeeds Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King, who will remain on the board along with the heads of two other philanthropies – Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Heinz Endowments; and Scott Izzo, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
The three foundations were instrumental in funding the original construction of the Wilson Center, which opened in 2009. Five years later, after financial problems and unsuccessful management efforts forced it into bankruptcy, the foundation leaders, along with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, rescued it from sheriff’s sale.
In 2016, the first full year the Center operated under new leadership, 135 events were presented, drawing more than 34,000 people. Programming and other activities have increased to the point that the board is now conducting a search for an executive director, the first staff position since the organization was re-established under the management board.
“Mike is an accomplished business leader who will provide great stewardship in that area for the Center,” said King. “We’re also fortunate to have the benefit of his experience from board service for many community-based organizations. It is critically important that the Center attract visitors from many sectors of Pittsburgh life.”
Polite said he is humbled by the confidence shown in him by fellow board members, and also aware of the significant amount of work required to continue the Center’s progress.
“The next two years will be critical as we bring on an executive director and map out the Center’s future,” he said. “While I’m taking over the helm, the work of the Center will always be the joint effort of our board and the Center’s supporters from the wider community, including public- and private-sector representatives.”
Other board members in addition to Polite and the foundation leaders are Richard Taylor, CEO of ImbuTec, who joined in 2015; and Tracey McCants Lewis, assistant clinical professor and pro bono program coordinator at Duquesne University School of Law, who joined last year.
With a strong record of accomplishment in community development and public service, Polite has led initiatives in public and private housing as well as economic development. He also has experience in program management, minority and micro-business development and community outreach. Other boards on which he serves include: Energy Center Innovation Institute, the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County Finance and Development Commission, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Previously, he served on the boards of Pittsburgh Gateways Corp., Catholic Charities and Angel’s Place.
About the August Wilson Center:
The state-of-the-art performing and visual arts facility in Downtown Pittsburgh supports an impressive array of programming to fulfill the mission of preserving, presenting, interpreting, celebrating and shaping the art, culture and history of African Americans in western Pennsylvania and people of African descent throughout the world. The 65,000 square foot LEED-certified building houses a 486-seat auditorium, several exhibition galleries, technology-enhanced classrooms and a community meeting space. Now under a management agreement with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the facility is supported by an experienced staff and is available as a community venue for all types of programming.