Board of Directors

City of Asylum

Toi Derricotte

A board member since 2005, Toi Derricotte is one of America’s leading poets. A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, her honors include the 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the Poetry Society of America’s Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, two Pushcart Prizes, the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from United Black Artists, the Distinguished Alumni Award from New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is a Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and co-founder of Cave Canem: A Home for Black Poetry.



Sandra Kniess

A board member since 2007, Northside community resident Sandra Kniess is former Head Nurse and Assistant Program Director at the Adolescent Psychiatric In-patient Unit of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. She has served on the Board of LBIP Investment Group, the Board of the Mexican War Streets Society, and the Board of Manhattan Club Property Group.



Anne Billiet Lackner

A lawyer in her native Belgium, for which she serves as Honorary Consul, Anne Billiet Lackner is co-founder of The Lackner Group trust administration software company. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the University of Pittsburgh’s EU Center of Excellence/European studies Center, and a facilitator to high schools at the World Affairs Council.



Charles F. O’Hanlon III

Charles O’Hanlon III joined the board in 2010, and currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer. He is President and CEO of Celsense, Inc., a biotechnology company. Previously, he was a Managing Director of Cornerstone Capital Advisors, Ltd. He spent 25 years in banking and financial services, including National City Bank and Mellon Bank, where he held management positions. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the First National Bank (PA). He has served as a member of the Boards of Directors for several privately held corporations and non-profit organizations.



James McDonald

James McDonald is the most recent addition to the board, having joined in 2014. A 27 year company veteran of BNY Mellon, Jim began his career by developing and implementing the company’s early Employee Counseling and Health Services Program and several health and wellness initiatives. He was also involved in the development and implementation of many of the company’s health policies. Subsequently, he was a Human Resources Consultant, providing employee services and counsel to management and employees. Later, he assumed the management of the company’s charitable giving programs. He received his Masters in Industrial Social Work from the School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh.



Michael McLean

Michael McLean joined the board in 2011. He is a lawyer and Partner at K & L Gates, one of the largest legal firms in the world, with branches in almost 40 countries. Former Chair of the Three Rivers Arts Festival and Trustee of the Carnegie Museum of Art, he is currently on the Board of the Allegheny Heart Institute, serves on the International Studies Advisory Board of University of Pittsburgh Law School and is a member of the Board of Visitors for the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for International Studies.



Gwendolyn Moorer

Northside community resident Gwendolyn Moorer joined the board in 2011. She is a Project Manager for the City of Pittsburgh’s Information Systems department and owner of the Northside franchise of Rita’s Water Ices. She is on the Development Board of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council and on the board of Artists Image Resources.



Ralph Henry Reese, co-founder, President

Co-founder and President of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh and Publisher of Sampsonia Way magazine, Henry Reese is former principal in Reese Brothers and Communications & Commerce. A Northside resident since 1978, he serves as Treasurer of Cave Canem: A Home for Black Poetry, and is a member of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Programming Advisory Committee. He is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and SUNY Buffalo. He received Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s Citizen Service Award, a 2011 Purpose Prize Fellow and has honorary degrees from Seton Hill University and Chatham University.



Diane Samuels, co-founder

Diane Samuels is co-founder of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. A visual artist whose public artwork is at Brown University (RI), Center for Jewish History (NY), and Gedenkstätte Grafenek (Ger.), she is an alumna of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, and holds a diploma from the Institute in Arts Administration at Harvard University. She was awarded honorary degrees by Seton Hill University (2008) and Chatham University (2011). She serves on the Board of National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education at Seton Hill University, and is a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. She has received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.



Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds, Vice-President

Board Vice-President Juliet Simonds is a Trustee of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, a Term Trustee of Carnegie Mellon University, and serves on the Boards of National Poetry Series, Chamber Music Pittsburgh, and Autumn House Press.


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City of Asylum News

  1. Salon Reading: Vu Tran

    February 12 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  2. Salon Reading: Fariba Hachtroudi

    February 18 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  3. Jazz Trio: Ches Smith with Craig Taborn and Mat Maneri

    February 25 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

The arrest of Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish shows the power of social media as a voice of dissent [...]

SampsoniaWay.org recognizes the African American authors who have contributed their stories and word [...]

In the wake of a historic election, Tienchi Martin-Liao reflects on the dark history of Taiwan and t [...]


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Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto speaks about immigration at City of Asylum

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