On September 12, the Pittsburgh-based Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) announced the winners of the 2019 Michelle Madoff Environmental Excellence Awards-- Laura Nettleton, Thoughtful Balance; Eva Resnick-Day, Sierra Club Ready For 100; Patricia Himes, Naturalist Educator, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy; Kristina Marusic, reporter with Environmental Health News; and Dr. Deborah Gentile, pediatric medicine, allergy/immunology.
In announcing the award winners, GASP said it has always had a legacy of strong women with many serving as board and staff members, and spokeswomen throughout the history of our organization.
GASP said it continues this tradition by honoring outstanding women who are currently working to improve the environment of southwestern Pennsylvania through the Michelle Madoff Award of Environmental Excellence, named for its founder and first president.
A panel of judges composed of GASP staff and board members selected the winners of the award from a pool of candidates nominated for consideration in five categories: business, community organizing, education, media, and medicine.
“GASP was fortunate to receive many excellent nominations,” GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said. “The women who’ve been named Michelle Madoff Award of Environmental Excellence awardees truly represent the best of the best when it comes to environmental stewardship.”
The award winners include:
-- Laura Nettleton: Laura Nettleton is the winner in the business category. She is the owner of Thoughtful Balance, a Pittsburgh-based architectural firm specializing in resilient and low-energy design.
During Nettleton’s career, which spans more than 30 years, she discerned the ever-developing demand for sustainable, efficient homes “before this important niche of the residential market had so evolved.”
Ranging from the 2014 North American Passive House Conference, San Francisco, CA, to the 2016 Passive House Conference in Darmstadt, Germany, her speaking engagements confirm her wide recognition as a leader in architectural innovation who has materially influenced the evolution of this growing market segment.
Nettleton, who earned an undergraduate degree in arts/psychology/art history at the Johns Hopkins University and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Oregon, was called a pioneer by her nominators. They wrote:
“Laura has shown the way for other developers to adopt a more sustainable approach. By proving that Pittsburgh’s energy-inefficient housing stock can be retrofitted with systems and materials that meet high standards like Passive House, Laura’s work sets an industry standard for sustainable construction, positively contributes to the overall air quality of the city and region, and marks her as a business leader who lives by a commitment to the triple bottom line.
“Laura is not a self-promoter, and the impact of the kind of work she does can often sound technical or go unnoticed. We feel Laura has gone unrecognized for too long, and that her commitment to finding affordable, sustainable building solutions where few or none existed before is a boon to our region, and an inspiration to others.”
-- Eva Resnick-Day: Eva Resnick-Day, won in the community organizing category. She currently serves as a community organizer with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, which aims to bring the City of Pittsburgh to 100 percent renewable, clean energy through a path that centers on equity and meets the concerns of the area’s most vulnerable communities—as well as the workers who are, or will be, impacted by an energy transition.
Resnick-Day’s involvement in the environmental movement dates back to 2010, when she worked as an organizer for a city-wide fracking ban. She worked with Greenpeace prior to her tenure at Sierra Club. She said she’s “thrilled to be fighting for a brighter future for Pittsburgh.”
When she’s not out trying to make the world a better place, the Taylor Allderdice alumna can be found singing and mountain climbing.
Resnick-Day, who earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh, was called a “force of nature” by nominators. They wrote:
“Eva Resnick-Day is an extraordinary organizer for social, environmental, and climate justice. She has a fierce love for the people, history, and natural beauty in and around Pittsburgh, and her unwavering vision for what is possible for our future makes her an invaluable asset to the Pittsburgh community.
“Eva is so dedicated to inspiring and training community members to stand in their own power that we rarely see her at the center of attention. Instead, she is a force of nature consistently and strategically pushing the people and city she loves with her whole heart toward a visionary future of equity, justice, and well being.”
-- Patricia Himes: Patricia Himes won in the education category. She currently serves as a naturalist educator at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and can typically be found in parks, streams, woodlands, and meadows helping kids connect with nature.
After all, she discovered one of her true loves—nature—playing in Clarion County’s forests and streams growing up.
Himes earned an undergraduate degree in biology to further her understanding of the nature, and then a master’s degree in education to help her share her “love and curiosity of the diverse, beautiful, magical world.”
She was called a game-changer by nominators, who wrote:
“Patty joined the Frick Environmental Center staff in 2000, as a Park Naturalist under Pittsburgh’s Citiparks division. Over the past 19 years, she has connected several generations of young Pittsburghers to nature in Frick Park.
“Just two years into her work at Frick, the Environmental Center burned (down) – on Aug. 5, 2002, in the midst of summer camp. Patty and her colleagues made the difficult decision to continue the summer (programming), a decision that ultimately affected the nature and philosophy of programming at the center.
“For 14 years between the fire and the opening of the new Frick Environmental Center in 2016, programming without a dedicated center tested Patty’s resourcefulness but also solidified an approach of using the park itself as the center’s primary classroom.”
They added: “Patty’s collaborative working style, her genuine care and concern for every person she interacts with, and the richness and authenticity of her own connection to nature have become hallmarks of Frick Environmental Center programming for all audiences.”
-- Kristina Marusic: Kristina Marusic won in the media category. A reporter for Environmental Health News, Marusic covers issues related to environmental health and justice, with a focus on western Pennsylvania.
Prior to her tenure there, Marusic worked as a freelance journalist covering issues such as social and environmental justice, activism, politics, and LGBTQ equality. Her bylines appeared in myriad media outlets, including the Washington Post, CNN, Slate, Vice, and MTV News.
Her nominators called her“fearless.”
“Kristina is everything that’s right with journalism—a truly gifted storyteller who’s decided to aim those talents at bettering our environment, her community, and the lives of her neighbors,” they wrote. “She is a forward thinking, strong-willed reporter dedicated to speaking truth to power. The kind of journalist every community deserves. Western Pennsylvania is fortunate to have Kristina watching its air, water, dirt and health.”
-- Dr. Deborah Gentile: Dr. Deborah Gentile won in the medicine category. She completed medical school, pediatric residency and allergy/immunology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. She previously worked at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Health Network and Pediatric Alliance, respectively.
Gentile’s recent research efforts have focused on evaluating asthma outcomes and triggers in disparate children from the Pittsburgh Region. Her work identified a strong association between exposure to elevated levels of outdoor air pollution and increased asthma prevalence and poor disease control in these children. She currently has funding from the Heinz Endowments to support this work.
She has authored more than 60 publications and is the recipient of numerous awards for her research efforts. Gentile is past president of the local and state allergy societies and is a member of numerous professional organizations.
Nominators called her work life-changing. They wrote:
“Dr. Gentile’s in-school asthma clinics have been literally life-changing for the children with asthma who she treats (and for their parents) – especially in Clairton in the shadow of the Clairton Coke Works facility.
“Before beginning her clinic, many of the students she treats didn’t have their disease under control, leading to missed school days, inability to participate in normal and necessary physical activities like sports, and frightening emergency room visits.
“Thanks to Dr. Gentile’s work, the students in her clinic all now have their asthma under control, so they’re missing fewer school days and now have improved odds of keeping up with their peers developmentally and educationally for the rest of their lives.”
These outstanding women will be honored at GASP’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which will be held from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on October 12 at the historic Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland.
The event will also feature live music, food and drinks, and a silent auction. Tickets are $80 a person or $150 a couple and can be purchased online here. All proceeds benefit GASP’s legal, educational, and advocacy endeavors.
For more information on programs, initiatives, other upcoming events and how to get involved, visit the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) website.(Photos: (top row) Laura Nettleton, Eva Resnick-Day, Patricia Himes, (2nd row) Kristina Marusic, Dr. Deborah Gentile.)
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