Skip to content

Athena Podcast Series: Athena Finalist Yvonne Cook

Interview by Jonathan Kersting

Athena Awards Podcast Series


In this episode of the UPMC Health Plan Athena Podcast we talk to Yvonne Cook, President, Highmark Foundation and Vice President for Community Health and Programs at
Highmark Health. She has dedicated her entire career to helping women and girls in her community excel.

Discover more about Yvonne Cook

As an exemplary leader, Yvonne Cook has devoted her entire professional career to helping other women and girls to achieve their full leadership potential. 

She works intentionally and believes in the power of mentoring and coaching to help build confidence in others through listening, sharing a vision for their life and speaking in a positive voice that gives others a sense of courage and commitment to know that they have what it takes to lead. Cook brings considerable leadership skills in board governance and oversight, strategic thinking and problem-solving, corporate citizenship and supplier diversity. As an experienced, proactive and highly successful executive who has spent her life working to prevent the harm of others, it has been through her extraordinary leadership capabilities that she has made her mark empowering people to affect change in themselves, their families and communities.

In her current roles, Cook is dually responsible for managing and directing philanthropic activities, overseeing employee engagement and building healthier communities by forming strategic partnerships. For more than 30 years, she has volunteered her time and expertise by serving on various boards and committees including the Carnegie Museum of Art, the City of Pittsburgh Minority/Women Business Enterprise Review Committee, Mt. Ararat Community Activity Center, and East Liberty Development, Inc., and provided oversight of the Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Department for Allegheny County. She is a host committee member for the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania 2020 annual luncheon and served as Vice-chair of the board   of directors for the Women for a Healthy Environment.

For several years, Cook served as a board member of the privately-held Chester Engineers, the largest black-owned environmental and engineering design company in the United States. She is also an avid art collector and supporter of the arts, who promotes the work of African American artists across the United States and throughout Africa. Additionally, she is a founding member of the August Wilson Center for African American Arts & Culture and serves on the Three Rivers Chapter of the Future of Board Leaders committee—developed by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD)—that has created a series of workshops to help recruit and train potential board members from diverse backgrounds. She has been an asset to these groups with her broad range of experience, service and incredible spirit.

With an impressive list of accolades for providing service for the quality of life to others in the community, Cook has received numerous awards in recognition of her service including honorary fellow induction to the International College of Dentists. Although not a dentist, her leadership in the promotion of dental and oral health and advancing a health equity agenda have culminated in this exceptional honor. With expertise built upon strategy and systems change—often sought after by a variety of organizations—Cook is also regularly invited to speak on topics related to the arts, leadership, philanthropy and health equity.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s Degree in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University.