Penn IUR Honors Leaders in Urban Affairs at the Eighth Annual Urban Leadership Forum

PHILADELPHIA - - The Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR) hosts the 8th Annual Urban Leadership Forum, “Strong Communities and Cities, Sustainable Nations,” on Wednesday March 21st from 11am to 1pm to celebrate exemplary leaders who are guiding cities toward a sustainable and vibrant future. The Penn IUR Urban Leadership Award is awarded annually to urban leaders who have made outstanding contributions to urban scholarship and to building cities that successfully respond to the challenges of the 21st Century. Media must RSVP by email to Amy Montgomery ( by COB Monday, March 19th.

This year’s awardees are Derek R.B. Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement, University of Chicago and former Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, White House Domestic Policy Council; Paul Levy, President and CEO, Philadelphia’s Center City District; and Lily Yeh, Global Artist and Founder, Barefoot Artists. Their past accomplishments and forward thinking are paving the way forward for today’s cities to be global leaders in building sustainable communities.

Derek R.B. Douglas joined the University of Chicago in January 2012 in his current role, leading the University’s local, national, and international urban development and civic engagement efforts and spearheads the University’s partnerships that advance urban economic development, enhance residents’ quality of life, and enrich the work of University faculty and students through research, education and direct engagement. Previously, Douglas served on the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) as Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, where he lead the DPC’s work on urban and metropolitan policy issues. Prior to working in the White House, he served as Washington Counsel to New York Governor David A. Paterson and Director of Governor Paterson’s Washington, D.C. Office. Prior to his appointment in 2007, Douglas served as Associate Director of Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress where he founded and served as Director of the Economic Mobility Program. Prior to joining the Center, Douglas was a Counsel at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and an Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Paul Levy is founding president and chief executive officer of Philadelphia's Center City District. Levy planned, received legislative and property owner approval for, and now directs the downtown management district which provides security, hospitality, cleaning, place marketing, promotion and planning services for Philadelphia's central business district. Since 1979, Levy has taught in Penn”s City Planning Department as well as at Temple University, Columbia University, and several New York public schools. Levy also serves as executive director of the Central Philadelphia Development Corp. He served as director of project development for the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Real Estate, at the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development and the Institute for the Study of Civic Values. He serves on the boards of many civic organizations, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Committee, and the Independence Visitor Center Corporation. He is a past chairman of the International Downtown Association.

Lily Yeh is an internationally celebrated artist whose work has taken her to communities throughout the world. From 1986 through 2004, Yeh served as co-founder, executive director, and lead artist of The Village of Arts and Humanities, a non-profit organization with the mission to build community through art, learning, land transformation, and economic development. Under her leadership, the summer park-building project developed into an organization with 20 full-time and part-time employees, hundreds of volunteers, and a $1.3 million budget. The Village became a multi-faceted community with activities such as after-school and weekend programs, greening land transformation, housing renovation, theater, and economic development initiatives. The center worked on local, national, and international projects, and was a leading model of community revitalizations throughout the country. In 2004, Yeh pursued her work internationally, founding Barefoot Artists, Inc., to bring the transformative power of art to impoverished communities around the globe through participatory, multifaceted projects that foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development, and preserve indigenous art and culture.

Penn IUR is proud to honor the work of exceptional urban leaders. Since 2005, Penn IUR has awarded 21 urban innovators including Raphael Bostic, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Jane Golden, Executive Director, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program; Shirley Franklin, Mayor, City of Atlanta, GA; Parris Glendening, President, Smart Growth Leadership Institute, and former Governor, Maryland; Bruce Katz, Vice President and Founding Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution; William Hudnut III, Senior Fellow Emeritus, Urban Land Institute, and former Mayor, Indianapolis, IN; Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Mayor, City of Charleston, SC; and Donna Shalala, President, University of Miami and former Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.