In the Huddle with Joanne Pasternack of the San Francisco 49ers
I am the Vice President and Executive Director for Community Relations and the 49ers Foundation for the San Francisco 49ers. I oversee outreach programs, grant giving, and fundraising efforts to support the San Francisco 49ers’ mission, which is to keep kids “Safe, On Track and In School” – providing opportunities for all children to reach their full potential.
What was your educational background and how did that prepare you for these positions?
I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in psychology. I realized that I wanted to work to make societal change through legislation, so after graduation, I enrolled at the Santa Clara University School of Law, graduating with my Juris Doctorate. While in law school, I worked with populations that had less access to resources. In addition to my job now, I am an adjunct professor at George Washington University and the University of San Francisco.
Tell me about your path to becoming the VP, from senior analyst for the City of Mountain View and Special Olympics.
Growing up, I thought my path would be quite linear, but found that through internships/mentors/professors, it took a more circuitous path. I took advantage of internships like working in Washington, DC for the Nature Conservancy and for the ACLU in Philadelphia. I first worked for the Special Olympics at their headquarters in Washington, DC in international corporate relations. This role involved creating partnerships with companies to sponsor the Special Olympics. Then I came back to the West Coast, where I worked as a Senior Analyst with the City of Mountain View, and founded the Mountain View Police Activities League. I was originally hired to the 49ers in 2008 as the Director of Community Relations and, in 2010, was promoted to also take on the role of Executive Director of the 49ers Foundation. In 2015, I was promoted to my current role as a Vice President.
The 49ers are widely known for their philanthropic efforts. Can you tell me more about that commitment, the programs, and how you’ve been involved?
The 49ers Foundation’s mission is to help all kids reach their full potential. We provide transformational life cycle grants, seeking to give vast majority of funding to a smaller number of organizations to allow us to become more invested in them and impact and influence longer lasting change. Last year, $4 million was committed to the community. We have eight primary charitable beneficiaries, one of which is the 49ers Academy (a high needs school in Palo Alto for 6th-8th graders; 70% homeless and underhoused). We noticed that although they thrived while at the 49ers Academy, many students were struggling when they came in and struggled when they left, so the 49ers Foundation helped fund a bridge program to assist them with the transition to high school, as well as their college and career objectives. We seek to do more than provide grants; we cherish the opportunity to get to know the kids and be involved in their growth. Another significant commitment is the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute’s Chevron STEM Zones, where students have access to 330 additional hours of STEM education, which is complemented by STEAM education program at the 49ers Museum. During this school year alone, we will reach 60,000 youth through a free STEAM-based field trip program.
Has mentorship played a role in your life, and if yes, how so?
It is probably one of the most important aspects of my life and I feel blessed to have had so many terrific mentors throughout my life. I treasure my mentors and try to pay it forward to the people I care about.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m the proud mom of two kids (9-year-old daughter, 7-year-old son) and my husband works for the San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), so we love all things sports. We like to spend a lot of time outside hiking, biking, roller blading, and being together as a family.
What advice do you have for young women?
You only get what you ask for! Know your strengths, work through your challenges, and exude confidence.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My dad always used to say “I can open the door, but I can’t walk you in.” I was also a competitive figure skater growing up, so I quickly learned that if you fall down, you just get back up.
Who is one of your female role models?
Denise DeBartolo York, who is a co-owner of the 49ers and Marlene Bjornsrud, who co-founded the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative are two of my female role models.
Contributor: Megha Keshav