New Boss At United Way Of NYC

October 4, 2012       Mark Hrywna      

United Way of New York City will be led by a female president and CEO for the first time in its history. Sheena Wright, a former United Way board member who for the past decade has been president and CEO of Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC) in the Harlem section of New York City, will succeed Gordon Campbell in mid-November.

Campbell, who led the United Way of New York City since 2007, left last month to become a professor of practice at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He had been adjunct assistant professor of public administration at the Wagner School.

“The success of United Way of New York City is important to the United Way network throughout the United States and worldwide. I believe Sheena Wright’s experience in community and economic development will serve United Way well,” said Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, said in a statement announcing the appointment. “Sheena is someone who is deeply committed to our city’s neediest residents, and has demonstrated tremendous leadership and success in delivering on that commitment,” said United Way of NYC Board Chair Bob Kueppers.

United Way of New York City is typically among the top affiliates in the country in terms of fundraising. This past year, it raised almost $43 million in public support, 19th among United Way affiliates. For the fiscal year ending June 2011, total revenue was more than $78 million, according to its most recent Form 990.

Wright’s two-year contract provides for an annual salary of $350,000. She was among two finalists interviewed last month. The board voted to offer Wright the position on Sept. 24, culminating a search process that began in April. After about 200 resumes were screened, 26 people were interviewed in the first round of interviews, and six were brought in for second interviews.

At ADC, Wright earned annual compensation of $200,000 in 2010, the latest Form 990 available on GuideStar. Campbell earned total compensation of $447,817 last year, including a base compensation of $391,122, according to the most recent 990 for United Way of New York City.

A lawyer by training, Wright has been responsible for leading and managing one of the nation’s premiere community and economic development organizations. During her tenure at ADC, the organization built 785 units of residential housing in 78 buildings and nearly a half million square feet of community, commercial and retail space, including the first new high school building in Harlem in 50 years, creating over 1,000 jobs in the process.

Under her leadership, ADC created the “Abyssinian Schools” division, which comprehensively manages five educational institutions that annually serve 2,100 school children and their families. Wright developed an award-winning workforce development program, which has helped 200 young high school dropouts obtain their GED or high school diploma and secure gainful employment, according to today’s announcement. She also developed a neighborhood based Naturally Recurring Retirement Community that annually serves over 1,000 seniors and increased the service delivery of ADC’s homeless shelter.

“I grew up in the South Bronx with a teen mother who raised my sister and me by herself,” said Wright. “The strength and fortitude of my mother combined with the help of community programs allowed me to accomplish everything I have today. I have seen first-hand how profound United Way’s impact is in our city, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to extend that impact day in and day out on behalf of all of New York’s communities,” she said.

Wright previously served as chief operating officer at ADC, based on Harlem. Prior to that, she served as the general counsel and executive vice president of business development for Crave Technologies, a senior associate at the law firm of Reboul, MacMurray, Hewitt, Maynard and Kristol, and an associate at the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz.

In addition to her new role at United Way of NYC, Wright serves on the Vera Institute for Justice and the New York City Regional Economic Development Council. A graduate of Columbia University — which she entered at age 16 — Wright received her law degree from Columbia Law School, and is a member of the New York State Bar.