Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony Speaker:Lisa Johnson Nutter, President of Philadelphia Academies, Inc.
Graduate Commencement Ceremony Speaker:Michael O’Neill, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Preferred Sands
Lisa Johnson Nutter is President of Philadelphia Academies, Inc., a non‑profit youth development organization that works in Philadelphia’s public high schools to provide career-based learning, college readiness supports, and supportive adult networks that motivate young people to stay engaged in school.
The overarching goal is to prepare young people for the 21st century economy and expand life and economic options for these students. Ms. Nutter’s diverse professional background includes work in the fields of education, community organizing, human services, community development, and arts and culture.
Her experience in communities nationally as a practitioner, researcher, and consultant shaped her work with youth and belief that education is a central factor in individual and community economic stability.
In her work, she has focused on asset-based approaches to understanding how to best support young people particularly in their transition to adulthood. As a result, she has advocated for—and her organization implements as part of its model—youth programming that links learning to the real world and promotes resiliency. Her background as an organizational development specialist has also influenced her practice significantly, leading to her to develop practical organizational strengthening tools that are used to support organizational learning and reinforce reflection, self-assessment, and planning practices among non‑profit organizations working toward social change. Ms. Nutter has a B.S. in Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University and an M.A. in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2005, she completed a year‑long fellowship in the Emerging Leaders Programme which is administered by the Centre for Leadership and Public Values at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and Duke University. She is actively engaged locally and nationally in issues related to social change and youth development and presently serves on the board of directors for the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, Big Picture Philadelphia, and the Institute for Education Leadership. She also serves on the Advisory Council for the Pennsylvania Conference for Women.
Since its inception in 2006, Michael O’Neill has served as founder and chief executive officer of Preferred Sands, a privately held investment/operating company.
Previously, O’Neill served as CEO of Preferred Real Estate Investments, Inc., a full service real estate development firm he founded in 1992.
O’Neill began his career with First Pennsylvania Bank in 1984 with a focus on lending to aggregate and mining process companies. O’Neill co-founded and is chair of the Philadelphia School Partnership, created to accelerate the pace of education reform in the city by increasing the number of great school options available to children in Philadelphia.
He is on the Executive Committee of Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS), a nonprofit organization supporting Catholic schools in the Philadelphia area. O’Neill is also a board member of Mastery Charter Schools, and chair of the High Tech High Philadelphia Foundation.
O’Neill holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Villanova University and a Juris Doctorate from Temple University.