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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Ariel Zwang, Chief Executive Officer, Safe Horizon

Ariel Zwang is the CEO of Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading provider of services to victims of crime and abuse. Last year, Safe Horizon provided support, prevented violence, and promoted justice for hundreds of thousands of victims and their families and communities.

From 2001-2008, Ms. Zwang was Executive Director of New York Cares, which, under her leadership, became the city’s largest volunteering organization, deploying 40,000 volunteers annually. In 1999-2000, Ms. Zwang was a White House Fellow, appointed by President Clinton. 

Her previous experience includes serving as a Vice President of the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation in the South Bronx, and as Special Assistant to the Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education.  Early in her career, Ms. Zwang worked at Morgan Stanley in New York and London; and as a management consultant with The Boston Consulting Group.  She is a trustee of Miss Porter’s School and past board member of the Points of Light Foundation.

She has received leadership awards from the Harvard Business School Club of New York, the American Committee for Shaare Zedek, and the National Pro-Am City Leagues.  Ms. Zwang is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.  She and her husband have two children.  We are so pleased to present Ariel Zwang as our latest Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Ariel Zwang for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: How did you first become involved with charitable endeavors?
Ariel Zwang: I was working as a management consultant after business school and had a bit of a mid-life crisis – I asked myself, is this how I want to spend the rest of my career? I decided that what was really important to me was doing the most I could to make fairer  some of the unfairness in society.  The people we help at Safe Horizon – victims of crime and abuse – have some of the most unfair things happen to them, and we support them through very difficult experiences, as we help them to heal and rebuild their lives.

In difficult economic times, what should our readers know and understand about charity, and yours in particular?
Just as things are tighter for you, they are very, very difficult for those most in need.  It can be hard to appreciate how difficult.  If you can possibly find a way to provide as much as, or even more, support for causes you feel are important this year, you will be doing something tremendously important.

Tell us about your Miss Porter's experience please and if you had Mover and Shaker Rennie McQuilkin as an English teacher.
I was a day student at Miss Porter’s, so I had a different experience from most people who go there, who are boarding students.  I learned a lot, had great affection and respect for my teachers, and have an abiding gratitude to the school for all it taught me about how to make my way in life.  Yes, Mr. McQuilkin was my English teacher, and I have a clear memory of his reading aloud with many different accents, depending on the literature we were studying.

How do you like being a Trustee at Farmington and what is that like?
It is a great privilege to serve as a Trustee.  I think the school leadership is terrific and is doing so much for girls and women. I’m really in awe of the work I see taking place there by the Head of School and her team.

New York Cares has a major impact on the city; what should most people know about New York Cares that most do not know?
Well, New York Cares won the New York Times Non-Profit Excellence Award in 2009, so that was great recognition for  the work that it does.  New York Cares enables 50,000 volunteers every year – really – to help make a difference for their neighbors in need.  It’s a terrific organization.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My parents sacrificed to give me a great education, and I am eternally grateful to them.

What are you proudest of and why?
I am proudest of the work we do at Safe Horizon, helping victims of the worst types of crime and abuse to overcome crisis and restore their lives.  Our mission is to provide support, prevent violence, and promote justice for these victims, their families and communities.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I’m very grateful for the work that I do, and I hope to continue to do work that benefits people in need for the rest of my career.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?

My apartment!  As a working mom with busy school-age children and a busy husband, I value most the quiet time I spend with my family.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?

Any knitting store, of which New York has so many wonderful ones.  I learned to knit as Miss Porter’s, as a matter of fact, from my math teacher, and have derived enormous enjoyment from knitting since my teenage years. 

What is your favorite drink?

Decaf coffee with a little regular, several of which see me through each day.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?

A counseling room at one of Safe Horizon’s Child Advocacy Centers.  In these places we work with children 12 and under who are victims of the most severe physical abuse and of sexual abuse.  The help that Safe Horizon gives these youngest victims is among our most profoundly important activities.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Going to the theater.  One of the best perks of doing non-profit work is belonging to the Theater Development Fund, through which you can get discounted tickets to Broadway shows.  Not that I go as often as I would like, but it’s wonderful to have access to the best theater anywhere.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 

My favorite aspect of the Whom You Know website is its focus on charitable events and activities in Charitable Peachy. I think it’s wonderful that you’re getting the word out about so many important causes.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 

I hate driving! Maybe not such a bad attribute if you live in the city, but a handicap if you’re going anywhere else.           

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 

Readers are welcome to contact me at

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