|March 6, 2009
Meg Cheever ('75) receives Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania Award for dedication to Pittsburgh parks
What do Princess Grace Kelly, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Cynthia A. Baldwin and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra keyboardist Patricia Prattis Jennings have in common? Throughout the years, each of these notable women has been named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. In October 2008, BU Law alumna Meg Cheever (’75), founder and CEO of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservatory, was awarded with the prestigious title, joining the ranks of the larger-than-life women who have come before her.
“I felt humbled to join the list of Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania awardees, stretching back to 1949…” said Cheever, who was among seven women recognized last year at a luncheon with Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell.
The governor lauded all seven women for their distinctive contributions to the state of Pennsylvania. “This year's Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania have done extraordinary work in so many different capacities…. I am grateful for the work that these women have done on our behalf to strengthen our state and the quality of life for so many residents,” he said.
Sylvia Fields, executive director of The Eden Hall Foundation, nominated Cheever for the award for her stewardship of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “The Parks Conservancy’s accomplishments over the past decade reflect both Meg’s strength as a business manager and her shrewd fundraising acumen,” said Fields in her letter of nomination.
A graduate of Wellesley College and a former publisher of Pittsburgh Magazine, Cheever has been at the helm of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservatory since its founding in 1997. Her reasons for starting the organization find origin in childhood memories of the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parkways of Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts. “Urban green space has always been an important part of my life, and I saw that Pittsburgh’s parks were falling into disrepair after decades of neglect,” said Cheever.
Cheever also cites her strong law background as a catalyst to her work: "The legal training and analytical skills my legal education provided have been invaluable throughout my career, particularly in heading up the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy," she said.
For the past 12 years, the Conservancy has worked in partnership with the city of Pittsburgh to restore its park system and improve the quality of life for its citizens. To date, the Cheever’s organization has made investments in restoration totaling approximately $40 million. Thanks to Cheever’s efforts, in 2008 Pittsburgh played proud host to Body and Soul: Parks and the Health of Great Cities, an international urban parks conference.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy also encourages community building through many social events held in the city’s parks. The Spring Hat Luncheon, Madcap Masquerade and Children’s Carousel Tea bring citizens together annually. The events reflect Cheever’s belief in parks as social glue in urban environments: “Parks play such an important role in a city because they are free to everyone, offering one of the most democratic spaces in society. They also provide for basic human needs, such as health, recreation, relaxation and social interaction,” she said.
Regarding her accomplishments with the Conservancy, Cheever says her chief sense of satisfaction comes from the people of Pittsburgh. “Watching the physical improvements to the parks, and then seeing people enjoying our park spaces, is a tremendous reward and inspiration to keep going,” she said.
Reported by Lauren Shiraka