Press Release: Pressley Ridge Names Faison 2006 Achievement Award Winner
PITTSBURGH, Sept. 21, 2006 – Pressley Ridge, an internationally recognized leader in the care of troubled and troubling children, will present its Annual Achievement Award to Helen Faison, PhD, for her outstanding service to children and youth at its annual board meeting.
The award will be presented during the Pressley Ridge annual board dinner set for 6 p.m. on September 25, at the Pittsburgh Golf Club. The Annual Achievement Award was started in 1981 to recognize individuals for their outstanding service to children and families. It is presented to an individual who has made significant contributions to the welfare of children and families representing the guiding mission and values of Pressley Ridge. Past recipients include the late Fred Rodgers of Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood fame, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy and former Pressley Ridge board members Lilian Fisher, Ben Fisher and Clark Luster.
Dr. Faison is the director of the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute at Chatham College and is a former interim superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. She has several professional “firsts” to her credit including:
- Pittsburgh School District’s first female high school principal and first African-American high school principal;
- Pittsburgh School District’s first African-American counselor; and
- Pittsburgh School District’s first African-American superintendent, serving as interim leader of the district from 1999-2000.
“Dr. Faison has dedicated her career to child and youth services. Her work – from teaching, to counseling to her role in developing new programs and initiatives – she has enhanced the lives of thousands of Pittsburgh children and their families,” said B. Scott Finnell, president and chief executive officer of Pressley Ridge.
Upon graduation from the University of Pittsburgh in the late 1940s, Dr. Faison began her legendary career as a caseworker for the Allegheny County Board of Assistance.
In 1950, she realized her dream and accepted a position teaching social studies and English in at Fifth Avenue High School in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. In 1960, she became the district’s first African-American counselor and worked her way up to principal by 1968. In 1970, she was named an assistant superintendent and, in 1983, she was named deputy superintendent.
In 1993, Dr. Faison retired from the Pittsburgh Public Schools and became a visiting professor at Chatham College. In 1999, she was promoted to her current position, director of the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute. That same year, she agreed to become interim superintendent of Pittsburgh schools while the district sought a permanent superintendent. She served until Dr. John Thompson was hired in 2000. More recently, she returned to lead the search process that led to the hiring of current Pittsburgh schools superintendent Mark Roosevelt.
“Generations of public school students, teachers, principals, school board members and education writers concur: during a 55-year career, [Dr. Faison] has proven herself to be a remarkably accomplished and widely admired educator,” said the anonymous writer of Dr. Faison’s nomination.
After it had named her the region’s most influential educator in 2004, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote of Faison that “Few people in this city have been respected as much.”
In addition to her work at Chatham College and Pittsburgh Public Schools, Dr. Faison is an emeritus trustee of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she served more than 20 years as a member of the board. She is also an emeritus trustee of the University of Pittsburgh, where she serves on the board of visitors for the university’s School of Education and the College of General Studies.
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