Through one of the most challenging years on record, Debbie Cunningham has navigated personal loss, a global pandemic, and a changing professional landscape without veering from her commitment to the community. Her story is one of inspiration, motivating us all to see more, do more, and come together no matter what challenges lay in our path.
Debbie is the Chief Investment Officer for Federated Hermes where she has built a successful career for nearly four decades. During that same time she has been a constant contributor to the company’s United Way annual campaigns and in later years, as a Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) member. She has been a participant and organizer of volunteer activities that have helped make our communities stronger.
Debbie’s commitment is extraordinary when coupled with her job, raising two daughters, and caring for her husband who had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. For thirteen years, Debbie has been an advocate and volunteer for Alzheimer’s research. While her husband has now passed, she is still passionate about finding a cure that can help other families. She has served as a volunteer with the Alzheimer Disease Research Center, the Alzheimer’s Walk, and the Alzheimer’s Association. Through it all, she has also made time for her community. As a United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council member she has helped numerous organizations including North Hills Community Outreach, Bethlehem Haven, and other non-profits supported through United Way. Debbie uses these opportunities as a way to bring together co-workers, friends, and family. “It’s a great bonding experience. You can do a lot of things by yourself, and I do, but it’s more fun if you have 10 or 20 of you doing it at the same time, while ultimately supporting the community,” says Debbie.
She believes that volunteerism is also a teaching moment. “Leadership is guiding by example, especially with younger kids that aren’t quite sure what they want to do. It helps them not only along a career path, but also to understand the importance of giving back. With my own kids, nieces, and nephews—having them help in these types of family outings and projects—exposes them to things that are not their day to day experiences.”
This ethos has continued, even through COVID, as Debbie assembled a group of United Way volunteers this summer to help refurbish Camp Guyasuta (a local Boy Scout camp). The team painted buildings, replaced a roof, sandblasted a pontoon boat, and cut down trees. For Debbie, this is one of the most rewarding parts of being a WLC member. “You get to use your own talents to help somebody that’s not as fortunate as you are—from a job standpoint, a monetary standpoint, or a family support standpoint. The great thing about WLC is you can be as involved as you want. You don’t have to spend five hours a week, but you can, if you want. And if you only have five hours a month, or five hours a year, there’s still a place for you in Women’s Leadership Council.”
Debbie is currently a WLC board member. She also serves on the board for Robert Morris University, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), and is an alumni board member for Duquesne University. She is a lifelong fan of Penn State football and is enjoying time with her daughters, their husbands and her first grandchild.
To learn more about United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, contact Lynne Popash at firstname.lastname@example.org in Allegheny County or Terri Dominick at Terri.Dominick@unitedwayswpa.org in Westmoreland County or Sherrie Dunlap Gallagher at email@example.com in Butler County.