Men of the Year
Local standouts who are redefining the term “man at his best”
by Bill Donahue

What makes a man truly great? Such a designation can be tough to quantify, though it’s not in the thickness of his wallet, the bellow of his voice, the weight of his bench press or the number of children he has sired. At least it’s not solely any of the above.

Some might suggest a man’s greatness can be measured only by what he leaves behind or, perhaps better put—in the vein of George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life”—how the world and the people around him would fare in his absence.

In the following pages are our votes for the men who are taking an active role in making the Philadelphia suburbs—and beyond—a better, richer, more civilized place. Each of the men spotlighted would likely accept the honor begrudgingly; rather than seek adulation or personal gain, they strive to do something “great” because they believe it is right, helpful or, simply, necessary.

We present our 2012 Men of the Year.


The Survivor
Jordan Burnham’s brush with death has led him down a path to easing the suffering of others

Jordan Burnham should, by all accounts, be dead.

On September 28, 2007, he crashed through the glass of his bedroom window and fell nine stories, suffering a rash of broken bones and other grave internal injuries that could easily have taken his life. Doctors didn’t give him a chance of survival for the first 72 hours after the fall, which, in actuality, was a suicide attempt caused by his struggle with depression.

“My sister was an overachiever, and I thought I had to live up to everything she did,” says Burnham, now 23. “I didn’t want to let my parents down, and it was a recurring cycle that I thought it was the end of the world when I did [let them down], thinking that I would never make them proud.”

The night of his suicide attempt, the once-promising athlete and star student had just returned from golf practice, when his parents told him they had discovered liquor in the trunk of his car. Afterward he felt it was one more incident in a long line of disappointments and that he “just didn’t belong here anymore.”

“I do remember hitting the ground, and I do remember the helicopter ride [to the hospital], but everything else is really hazy,” he says. “It’s shocking that I survived, and that led me to have a more positive attitude. I’m grateful to be alive.”

Burnham’s body has since mended, and he also has a firmer grasp on his mental health. In fact, he has made a career out of traveling the country to bear his soul and inform the masses about the dangers of depression, especially among young adults. His amazing story has led the King of Prussia resident into the eye of the mainstream media, from USA Today and People magazine to “Dr. Phil” and “The Ricki Lake Show,” though he prefers speaking directly to on-campus assemblies. This year, for example, from the last week of August through November, his schedule included nearly 30 speaking engagements across the country.

“I spoke out in California, near Yosemite [National] Park, and a guy came up to me afterward and told me my story saved his life,” he says. “The same thing happened with a woman in North Carolina. … Just by telling a story for 35 to 40 minutes, it’s amazing the kind of feedback you hear. People come up to you and say, ‘You literally told my life story.’ It’s humbling.”

Burnham had been pursuing his college degree before realizing he—and, for that matter, others struggling with mental-health issues—could be better served by telling his story as a professional speaker for Washington, D.C.-based mental health nonprofit Active Minds, which has chapters on more than 350 school campuses. Within the next few years he intends to go back to school and earn a degree in broadcast journalism.

“I couldn’t have imagined any of this happening,” he says, “and I have no idea as to where things are going to go from here.”


The Champion
Under the guidance of Bob Kreider, nonprofit Devereux has endured as a nurturing organization designed to help others discover their potential

In the Philadelphia area and elsewhere, The Devereux Foundation has been supporting the underserved and the vulnerable for longer than most living people can remember. Devereux turned 100 this year, and a man named Bob Kreider played a rather significant hand in the nonprofit reaching its historic landmark.

With centers in 11 states, the Devon-based nonprofit has grown into a national network offering clinical, therapeutic, educational and employment programs and services for people of all ages with emotional, developmental and educational disabilities—everyone from kids along the autism spectrum to adults with mental illness. With the organization’s continued growth, Kreider is quick to point the spotlight elsewhere, such as the 42 Devereux employees with 35 or more years of tenure (some with as many as 50) honored by the nonprofit earlier this year. Such retention speaks volumes about the culture Kreider has helped sustain.

“These are 42 people that had basically worked their entire career at Devereux,” says Kreider, a former investment banker who joined Devereux as CFO in 1994 and became its chief executive in 2004. “Something that always struck me about the organization and made it very different from anything else I was ever involved with is the extraordinary commitment of the staff. This is not easy work, and it requires a type of individual that gets tremendous satisfaction from helping others and nurturing them to reach their full potential.”

With more than 90 percent of its funding coming from government agencies, which have wrestled with deficits over the last few years, Devereaux has continued to thrive. Last month, for example, the organization hosted the biggest, most prestigious event in its history: a 100th anniversary black-tie gala emceed by Mayor Nutter at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Roughly 1,000 invited guests, employees and other VIPs gathered to celebrate the anniversary and pay tribute to the legacy of founder Helena T. Devereux, raising in excess of $1 million along the way. The money will go toward the Second Century Fund, a fundraising initiative to ensure that Devereux remains as strong and vibrant as it has for its first 100 years. So far, according to Kreider, the ongoing campaign has already raised $12 million of its targeted $20 million.

“In an economic environment that’s so challenging, it’s inspirational for the staff, and for me, to see the community come out and affirm what we do,” he says. “It’s a very exciting time for us.”

The rocky economic climate has meant that nonprofits have had to get creative, which the team at Devereux has; such external dynamics have placed “incredible pressure on the human service side and made us be more efficient and effective in what we do,” Kreider says. At the beginning of the year, Kreider helped finalize a strategic plan to lay out a path toward a prosperous future.

“In 1995 we primarily delivered services in 17 or 18 locations, and now we’re serving people in hundreds and hundreds of locations,” he says. “It’s necessary because we believe we should service individuals in the least restrictive and appropriate setting.”

Before Kreider became president, Devereux was a largely decentralized organization, with clinical decisions and approaches to care varying by location. Now the organization, whose 6,000 employees serve more than 15,000 individuals and their families every year, boasts a shared philosophy of care among all locations.

“Behavioral health is an issue we all face in different ways; it’s everybody’s issue,” he says. “Devereux has made an extraordinary commitment the last few years to dramatically change the programs we offer. … We try to help our clients build skills which give their lives more meaning. We’re in this to change lives.”


The Healer
Villanova football coach Andy Talley gives hope—and life—to people battling lethal diseases

It’s a Friday afternoon in late November, and Villanova University football coach Andy Talley is preparing for the next day’s matchup against the University of Delaware’s Blue Hens. It’s an important game with championship implications, whereby the Wildcats will try to batter and bruise their rivals—and vice versa. Yet when he scans the opposing team’s roster he feels something akin to camaraderie.

“Paul Worrilow is one of [Delaware’s] linebackers, and tomorrow he’s going to be trying to knock out some of our running backs,” Talley says. “But there’s a sense of community between us. He has donated his bone marrow and already saved the life of someone who wouldn’t have made it without [his donation].”

It’s a cause obsessively close to Talley’s heart. Through his Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation, Coach Talley has become a leading crusader in the battle against leukemia, lymphoma and other such serious ailments. His foundation recruits healthy young people on college campuses—including football players such as Worrilow—to register with the “Be The Match” National Marrow Donor Program. In Worrilow’s case, his marrow went toward helping a female in her early 20s afflicted with leukemia.

Talley got involved 20 years ago, after learning of the overwhelming odds facing people in need of a marrow transplant. Each year, Be The Match figures suggest, approximately 10,000 patients diagnosed with life-threatening blood diseases find themselves in need of marrow from an unrelated donor, yet only half receive one.

In Talley, the cause has a more than devoted champion. Through his “Get in the Game, Save a Life” program, he has enlisted 34 college football programs—so far—to lead and host their own on-campus donor drives each spring. During these drives, the athletes scour the campus and recruit others to take the cheek swab test needed to become potential marrow donors on the national registry.

In 2010, the program hoped to recruit 5,000 new registrants, though it far exceeded expectations by adding 8,800 new donors to the registry. This year the initiative added 8,000 more potential donors. Because of the intricacies of the human immunity system, the odds of finding a match are slim, but it does happen. One recent instance concerned a sick 2-year-old girl from the San Diego area who found a match in a linebacker from State University of New York College at Cortland, N.Y., named John Stephens.

“The coach there [Dan MacNeill] is my former defensive coordinator, and his player saved this little girl’s life,” he says. “Her family came all the way out to the Cortland State game, which is near Syracuse. So here’s this big, tough linebacker, with his arms around the family and their little girl, who had no chance of making it [without a transplant]. Now she’s the picture of health.”

The second annual Andy Talley Bone Marrow Bash, held last March, raised more than $50,000 for the cause, to support those in need of marrow transplantation. (The third annual bash is slotted for March 2013.) For example, the foundation paid to fly a woman to Seattle to receive a transplant, and it also helped fund a marrow drive organized by a former Villanova player at his place of work; the cost to add a new member to the national registry is approximately $100, according to Be The Match.

“If you go into a room and ask, ‘How many people in here know somebody who has cancer?,’ almost everyone raises their hand,” Talley adds. “Last year we tested 8,000 young, healthy people [to become donors], which is fantastic. We’re still crawling, but this year we hope to walk a little more. … I look at what we’re doing as a pay-it-forward-type deal. I know we’re saving lives, and it’s very beautiful.”


The Engineer
With decades of business success behind him, venture-capital icon Pete Musser is still engineering deals to turn entrepreneurs’ dreams into reality

His life has been one of measured risk, of treating people kindly and with respect, of taking chances with the expectation of reaping the rewards. And reap he has, having helped put multibillion-dollar firms such as Comcast Corp., Nutrisystem and QVC on the map.

Yet Warren V. (“Pete”) Musser, who turns 86 this month, isn’t one to rest on his laurels. After six decades in business, he continues to seek ways to help hungry entrepreneurs build out their dreams. The Wayne-based firm he founded in 1953 and of which he currently serves as chairman emeritus—Safeguard Scientifics Inc.—provides growth capital to firms in the life-sciences and technology sectors.

Musser rose from humble beginnings, out of humbling times. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1949, with a degree in industrial engineering, not knowing what he wanted to do, though he says he “knew I didn’t want to be engineer.” He came to Philadelphia for work and tried his hand at being a stockbroker. (“I was put on a $150-a-month draw, and as soon as your commissions exceeded your draw you went on commission,” he says. “At the end of three years I was still on a draw.”) In what he calls an “audacious” move, he and a co-worker broke away to form their own firm with the goal of building businesses from the ground up.

Eventually he crossed paths with Ralph J. Roberts, who, with Musser’s help, acquired his first cable system and went on to co-found Comcast Corp., now the largest cable operator and Internet service provider in the United States. Musser was also instrumental in shaping the good fortunes of QVC and Nutrisystem, among many others, before the bursting of the Internet bubble turned his company’s fortunes upside down. He has been tenaciously rebuilding—his firm tallied $100 billion worth of public companies at its peak in the 1990s—ever since, all the while continuing to open doors for others.

Musser enjoys exceptional health, which he attributes to good genes, and a zest not found in most 40-year-olds, let alone someone approaching 90. His rules for living a healthy life are simple: “Eat in a sensible way, don’t get too anxious—I don’t get too anxious over uncertainty—and do what you love doing. And be lucky.”

His busy schedule and long walks with his golden retriever, Higgins II, help keep him young. He’s had six golden retrievers over the past six decades, which over the years have served not only as canine companions but also as emissaries of sorts.

“I’ve had a dog by my side [in the office] for the last 30 years,” he says. “It relaxes people when they come in to see you. If you’re trying to get people to talk about their dreams and hopes, having a dog there helps build trust.”

Musser—also president and CEO of The Musser Group, a consulting company that advises emerging companies on the upswing—is a strong supporter of and contributor to the greater Philadelphia region, having given untold amounts to local philanthropic causes over the years, especially those that benefit future generations. He is perhaps the region’s most ardent supporter of the Boy Scouts of America. He has a deep appreciation for what the Boy Scouts promote—taking chances, being honest, helping other people and being thrifty, which he calls “the perfect definition of an entrepreneur”—and he likes that he can have a positive influence on young people.

As for the future, Musser he doesn’t foresee a “what’s next” so much as he sees a continuation of his past.

“My life has basically been spent in business,” he says. “I’ve never been one for long vacations. … I can’t sleep late in the morning anyway, so I usually go to breakfast somewhere and end up talking business; I’ve done a lot of deals with entrepreneurs at the breakfast table. There’s nothing more fun than working with aggressive, entrepreneurial people. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.”