Dynamic Women, Ahead of the Curve

Mark Davidson

Carol Ammon
Founder and Former Chairman of Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Chairman, University of Arkansas Myeloma Institute

With a degree in biology, an MBA, and 23 years in the pharmaceutical division of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Carol Ammon made a bold move in 1997. She led a buyout team and purchased 37 pharmaceutical products from The DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company to form specialty pharmaceutical company Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., stepping into the positions of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. By July 2000, Pennsylvania-based Endo was a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: ENDP) with market leadership in pain management.

It was difficult to earn a prominent position as a woman scientist in the 1970s, “but I was always inspired by my mom and dad who gave me a great sense of achievement,” says the New York native. “My dad is my hero. He taught me to find happiness in my work and contentment in my life.”

Under her lead, Endo became Eastern Technology Council’s Company of the Year in 2003, the same year in which Ammon received the Greater Philadelphia Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Health Sciences category. A year later, Ammon was named CEO of the Year by the Eastern Technology Council. Other accolades include the 2005 Paradigm Award, the Woman of Spirit Award from the Greater Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and was recognized for her past role with the Delaware Public Policy Institute.

In the decade since retiring from Endo in 2005, Ammon has lectured in business development strategy at the University of Delaware and served as a Director of the Harvard School of Business Healthcare Advisory Board. She has also served as Trustee of the University of Delaware and Director of the Hagley Museum & Library in Wilmington – site of the greatest collection of business papers in the world. In a role dear to her heart, Ammon is also Chairman of the University of Arkansas Multiple Myeloma Advisory Board, where she is impassioned to find a cure for the disease in addition to raising $100 million for new research laboratories.

With an accomplished past, Ammon pushes forward. “I’d like to see better access for the disadvantaged, making sure we take care of those who can’t take care of themselves,” she says. “I would also like to see more scholarships for doctors.” Topping her bucket list are seats to the 2016 Olympics, going to the Final 4 NCAA Basketball Championship, and traveling to Russia. Ammon enjoys the freedom she finds in working from BIGHORN and teleconferencing, but says that the humility amongst both Members and staff is its greatest asset as a community. “It feels like one big happy family here,” she says. “I love living in a diverse place where people are genuinely happy for each other’s success.”

Jo Kaplan Feldman
Los Angeles Juvenile Advocate &
L.A. County Probation Commissioner

After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1968, Jo Kaplan Feldman soon became a voice for the voiceless as a criminal defense attorney with the Public Defenders Office.“As a young lawyer, I realized that although everyone needs good representation, it was especially critical for the impoverished, mentally ill, and children,” she says. “Otherwise they could easily be lost in an often unfair, overburdened, dehumanizing system.”

Kaplan decided early on that she would focus on reforming the Juvenile Justice System not just changing one life at a time in the courtroom. “I’ve been representing families for 40-plus years and nothing is more tragic than not giving them the help they need. These kids have had lousy breaks – yet when given proper treatment, resources, and support they could lead productive, law-abiding lives.”

“Unfortunately putting children in serial foster care, group homes, or youth prisons doesn’t work,” she shares. “There has been very little emphasis on rehabilitation – only on punishment. We need to help these kids, teach them life skills, and educate them so they have a chance at leading fulfilling and productive lives.”

A fearless advocate, Kaplan is also a leader in children’s rights at the state and national level. As the head of the Offices of Jo Kaplan – a precursor to the Children’s Law Center of California – she counseled for the abused and neglected. She also taught juvenile law classes at two L.A. law schools, sat as a referee in Juvenile Court, and has been a vigorous legislative advocate for policy change.

With her husband, Larry Feldman, also an attorney, they helped to establish the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy. Jo has been honored for her work in public interest law by Public Counsel, along with Former Vice President Al Gore, by Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the ACLU, and by many others.

Kaplan is currently working to save girls as young as 12 who have fallen victim to sex trafficking. Kaplan is also consulting on a new $50 million Juvenile Center. “We lock up thousands of children every day, so we’re building cottages instead of barracks, we’ll have counselors, not just guards. We want to give kids hope and self-esteem and get them back on their feet,” she explains.

To recharge, the Feldmans spend their weekends at BIGHORN, where they love hiking, the spa, golf, and hosting their teenage grandchildren. “It’s a real bonus for us and now they are bringing their friends; we’ve become sort of a sleepover camp.” Around town, she relishes the art scene. “My house is filled with art from Colin Fisher Studios. I go there with my convertible and whatever I can fit in, I bring home.”

Debra Gershen
Vice President & General Merchandise Manager

The 1980s centered around labels – from Brooke Shields flaunting her Calvin Klein jeans and IZOD’s essential crocodiles to Jaclyn Smith debuting her fashion collection at Kmart. Transforming the public’s perception of one of the world’s largest retailers – and making it cool to visit the home of “Blue Light Specials” – was one of the most inconceivable ideas in fashion history. Yet it was the genius of Debra Gershen, former Vice President and General Merchandise Manager for Kmart’s Ladies & Girls Apparel, that changed fashion retailing forever.

In the late 1970s, Gershen joined G. Fox & Co. By the time she moved to New York as an Assistant Buyer for the S.S. Kresge Corporation, which owned Kmart, Gershen was ready to shine. She became the first female Vice President of Women’s Apparel, the largest position with the largest retailer in the country. Charged with eliminating the “Blue Light Special,” Gershen’s team created celebrity branding with “Charlie’s Angels” Jaclyn Smith, who was the perfect smart, athletic role model. “From the beginning, Jaclyn wanted to be involved, picking out the styles she would wear and modeling for the campaign,” Gershen praised. “We were far ahead of the curve to develop celebrity merchandising for years before anyone tried to copy us. Jaclyn cheered the company on and the staff loved her!”

Kmart’s sales soared as their new products and fresh displays revolutionized the industry – largely thanks to the cross- merchandising techniques of Gershen’s team. Smart pairings of clothing, hats, and accessories quickly inspired eager customers to purchase the entire outfit so they could feel like a supermodel. Today, Jaclyn Smith continues to be one of the most successful celebrity-turned-designers in the world.

Sealing their legacy, Gershen’s team also created a SKU system that tracked the week’s best-selling merchandise at each store. By following the numbers, the team boosted stores’ success by stocking the merchandise that matched their clients’ needs. “The increase in sales empowered the sales staff and the marketing and merchandising teams became more innovative with their designs.” Future labels included the “Beverly Hills Blues” line, worn by the 1988 U.S. Girls gold-medal winning Olympic Gymnastics team on the pages of Teen and Seventeen magazines.

After 25 years reinventing Kmart’s image, Gershen met her husband, Bill Gershen, and embarked on her second career as a dedicated philanthropist and artist. While Bill serves as CEO of Vanguard Industries, producer of the military’s highest forms of honors, Debra became Director of Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael. She has served on the boards of Lifeline Center for Child Development, San Diego Museum of Art, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, and the Telluride Foundation. Having discovered her love for painting, she has converted a bedroom into a studio where she transfers her favorite visions onto canvas. Now enjoying a retirement fueled by beauty and creativity, Gershen’s efforts in the retail arena live on in celebrity fashion collaborations and beautiful clothes at affordable prices for women across the globe.

Marie Pinizzotto, MD, MBA
Physician, CEO, Philanthropist

From practicing obstetrics and gynecology to ensuring drug safety among users of high-risk drugs and hormone replacement products, Dr. Marie Pinizzotto’s esteemed career has created a safer, healthier, and longer life for an untold number of people who have been touched – and even healed – by her work.

Dr. Pinizzotto earned her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and specialized in obstetrics and gynecology before transitioning to a meaningful career in the pharmaceutical industry that included senior positions at Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Wyeth. She left big “pharma” to start her own consulting company, Drug Safety Solutions, LLC, a pharmacovigilance and risk management company concerned with drug safety of narcotics and high-risk drugs. In her role as president she worked closely with the FDA and numerous pharmaceutical companies developing risk management plans and assessing risk profiles of drugs. In 2008, she earned her MBA from the University of Delaware.

Incredibly involved in healthcare, Dr. Pinizzotto is a board member and also the Named Chair of Academic Affairs at Eisenhower Medical Center. She is a trustee at Christiana Care Hospital in Wilmington DE, where she is the Named Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr Pinizzotto is also a board member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation where she also sits on the their scientific advisory committee. She also sits on the Presidents Advisory Council for Jefferson Medical College and the University of Delaware. Currently she is the President and CEO of a private philanthropic foundation which focuses on healthcare and education.

Dr. Pinizzotto’s passionate vision for her personal endeavors is as ambitious as her healthcare career has been. “I have a few bucket list quests: to play the Top 50 U.S. golf courses and to learn to speak Italian and Spanish.” On her way to playing the Top 50 courses, according to Golf Magazine’s 2013 list, this avid golfer (nicknamed “Twitch” because she moves so much while golfing) has swiftly checked off 20 courses. “Members of Augusta, please let me know.”

Her Sicilian lineage fuels her love for cooking, especially lasagna, for family and her BIGHORN friends, who are also considered family. Cooking makes her feel like she is at one of her traditional Sunday dinners with 25 of her closest relatives.

Another goal, she adds good-naturedly, but in earnest: “I’d also love to live long enough to collect Social Security!” As a six-year survivor of multiple myeloma cancer, Pinizzotto is constantly funding research. “My dream is to find a cure for this disease.”

Alice Rosenblatt
40+ Year Career and Executive Vice President
& Chief Actuary for WellPoint

Growing up in a 2-bedroom, 1 bath apartment in the Bronx, NY, Alice Rosenblatt never felt deprived. “But I never knew people lived like this, in houses like this,” she reflects. “I feel blessed every day when I look outside and see this view.” Rosenblatt worked her way up through the male-dominated actuarial field starting with naturally strong math skills. “I was a bit of a bookworm,” she says. “I majored in math with the intent to teach on a college level, until I became disillusioned with the theoretical nature of my specialty in complex variables.” An employment agency suggested this technical and analytical field, and she quickly passed all of the required exams and became one of the few to soar into the ranks of executive management.

When she retired from WellPoint (now Anthem) in February 2008, she was performing three jobs: acting as chief actuary; overseeing the company’s information management strategy; and coordinating the integration of all mergers and acquisitions. In her role as Executive Vice President and Chief Actuary (the final position
in her impressive 40+-year career) at one of the largest health insurance companies in the United States, she managed a staff of 700 employees. Rosenblatt also served on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission for six years and has served on the boards of both the Society of Actuaries and the American Academy of Actuaries. She received the Society of Actuaries’ President’s Award in October 2013.

“When I started out, only five percent of actuaries were women. Now it might be 20 percent. I think a lot of women are afraid of math,” says Rosenblatt, who modeled her great bosses and learned what not to do from the poor ones. “I was always a believer in open, honest communication and I think that helped me.”

After retiring from WellPoint, Rosenblatt remained in the industry as an actuarial and strategy consultant to health plans. Now she focuses on volunteer work for the Society of Actuaries. “It supports a profession that brought me to where I am today. I wouldn’t be at BIGHORN without it,” she says. “It’s my way of paying the profession back.”

“I’m lucky to have my circle of friends here – many who have had very successful careers,” Rosenblatt says of her life at BIGHORN. “Even though I’m single, I never feel alone. It’s the first time I’ve had friends outside work. We all have similar interests: attending charitable events, visiting galleries, entertaining, golfing, or enjoying a good workout. BIGHORN has been a great community for me.”

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