The president and chief executive officer of Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania will retire after a 35-year career with Junior Achievement Inc.
Dennis Gilfoyle will step down after 14 years in his current position once his successor has been identified and the leadership transition has been completed, no later than Sept. 30.
Gilfoyle oversees the Junior Achievement organization, based in South Fayette Township, that serves a 50-county area of Western Pennsylvania and the northern half of West Virginia. Founded in 1939, JAWPA is one of the oldest and most decorated JA organizations in America.
Under Gilfoyle, JAWPA enrolls nearly 70,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade annually with programs and experiences focused on workforce, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Nearly 3,000 volunteers from the community support the various JA programs in schools and in after school settings.
Gilfoyle’s career with JA started in 1984, when he was hired by the Pittsburgh office to manage “Project Business” the organization’s first in-school program. His career led him to positions in marketing, fundraising and operations, including starting the organization’s annual JA Bowl-A-Thon and the Spirit of Enterprise Dinner and Awards Ceremony.
In 1992, Gilfoyle received national recognition for creating marketing campaigns with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates. That same year, he started a golf tournament at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier that exists to this day and was supported by Arnold Palmer as honorary chairman.
Gilfoyle received a Global Leadership Award from Junior Achievement Worldwide in 1995 for his work in helping to launch Junior Achievement in Ireland.
In 1995, he left Pittsburgh to become President of Junior Achievement’s program in Jacksonville, Fla., where he started the North Florida Golf Classic, the organization’s largest fundraiser played at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra.
He returned to Pittsburgh in 1997 as vice president of JAWPA and embarked on several new projects to help the organization raise funds, awareness and reach even more students. Jr. Benchmarks, a program he helped develop in 1999, was designed to help keep young people in Pittsburgh after graduation. In 2001, the Jr. Benchmarks program received a national award from MetLife Foundation for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
In 2004, Gilfoyle helped establish the Fred Rogers Good Neighbor Award, soon after Rogers’ passing. The award recognizes a local Pittsburgh area business or community leader for his or her service and dedication to the region. The award is presented annually at the Junior Achievement Spirit of Enterprise Dinner and Awards Ceremony.
With the support of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Gilfoyle worked with local energy companies and schools to help launch JA Careers In Energy, a middle school-based program to teach students about job opportunities in the energy sector. More than 10,000 students have participated in the program, with nearly $2 million in funds raised from local energy companies.
Through the support of companies participating in the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, Gilfoyle worked with local private schools to create a number of scholarship programs to assist students and their families with tuition. The scholarship program began in 2004, and through 2019, more than $2.5 million in scholarships have been awarded to students in Western Pennsylvania.
The culminating achievement of Gilfoyle’s career has been the creation of JA BizTown at the organization’s headquarters in South Fayette. JA BizTown is a miniature marketplace complete with 19 sponsored storefronts and a city hall.
Designed to give young people a true dress rehearsal for life, more than 10,000 students each year can participate in a simulation that depicts a real day in the business world. Students compete for various jobs, earn a paycheck, market and sell products and/or services, and budget expenses.
The $3.7 million complex is open to all students in fourth through sixth grades.