Spring 2017 What Drives You

For two Carlow alumni, the Mercy values they practiced as students helped elevate them to leadership positions as professionals.

One of these men guides high school students citywide to open their minds and let creativity flow. The other helps people to achieve the American dream—to finally have a place they can call home. These Pittsburgh community leaders share advice on what it means to lead influential organizations and pursue missions driven from within.

Mercy Urges Us To Open Our Hearts.

Artist Justin Mazzei '06 paints with such an intense look on his face that his wife asks him if he's okay. He is fine, just focused.

Mazzei brings the same fervency to his position as director of Manchester Craftmen's Guild (MCG) Youth and Arts. The after-school program located on Pittsburgh’s North Side offers sophisticated studio art facilities and instruction for high school students of any background.

Enrolled teenagers may learn to work with a full array of media, from working with clay to operating a 3D printer. In the process, they discover and develop personal strengths.

Mazzei says the practice of making art is a kind of problem-solving that requires coming up with multiple solutions.

Even when they stray off course, as teens may do, Mazzei says the program helps.

"The kids develop skills they will use in the future. They learn how to use new materials. Through discussions about artwork they learn to accept criticism," says Mazzei.

Discovery Energizes Our Curiosity and Desire for Learning

Energetic and welcoming, Mazzei seems like a born leader, but he struggled to find stability as a youth.

Mentors and role models inspired him— including Carlow University professors such as William DeBernardi, associate professor of art. 

DeBernardi reminded Mazzei that life is "not a rough draft" and inspired him to learn as much as he could as he earned his degree.

Taking every opportunity, Mazzei started volunteering at MCG. Upon graduation he had the grit to show up at the studio and ask for a full-time job. MCG hired him, first as a ceramics technician, then instructor, and now director.

Mazzei pays forward the mentorship he received at Carlow and MCG. He advises students that "more experiences help you to get a big picture and figure out where you t in this world."

Hospitality Creates a Space in Our Community for All Individuals

In the East End section of Pittsburgh, staff and volunteers of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh (HFHGP) are wielding hammers for a good cause. Eight first-time homeowners are set to move into their houses in the coming months. HFHGP was their best option for homeownership.

Howard B. Slaughter, Jr.,’93, president and chief executive officer of HFHGP, has a rich baritone voice and an assuring handshake that lifts spirits.

"We've been working with these families well before the process of finalizing which homes they would ultimately own," he says.

Slaughter knows about hard work. He was employed full-time throughout his education—from earning his associate’s degree to his Bachelor of Arts in Business Communication from Carlow, and later while he earned two master's degrees and his doctorate.

Today, Slaughter's staff of 10, along with his supportive board of directors, serves most of Allegheny County with one-to-one counseling and financial literacy training. HFHGP offers a 30-year, no-interest loan to the families in their homeownership program. His organization has had only one foreclosure in 31 years.

Slaughter has extensive lending expertise to match his self-assurance. He has held numerous roles within the banking industry—including as the first regional director of Fannie Mae's business center and president and CEO of Landmarks Community Capital Corporation, where he worked directly with community-based organizations.

Service Calls Us To Prioritize The Needs of Others

In 2017-18, HFHGP will rehabilitate five homes in Penn Hills and construct three new ones in Duquesne. Slaughter says the construction of eight homes will consist of comprehensive methods to ensure quality. The homes are in good neighborhoods, close to shopping centers and downtown.

Homeownership is still a goal for most Americans, according to Slaughter.

"It's euphoric to help someone who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to own a home. Helping a struggling family achieve their goal of homeownership is humbling," he says.

Sacredness of Creation Leads Us To a Respect for Each Person and Our World

Slaughter leads an organization on a mission to give people a chance.

When it comes to leadership, he says it is vital to have a solid foundation made up of education and experiences. Also leaders need to stay focused. "As a leader you can make the difference, and it comes back the other way, too. People helped me along the way," he says.

It's What Drives Them

When planning new television commercials in 2017, Carlow University chose Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and a HFHGP home construction site as two of the film sets. Mazzei and Slaughter were featured in the commercials, modeling the internal drive and intelligence exemplified in many Carlow alumni.

Something about Carlow motivates others toward a greater good. It takes a special kind of courage lead organizations where one's education—and values—are put to the test.

By Ann Lyon Ritchie