Cleveland Federal Reserve president to advise UA Board


Sandra (Sandy) Pianalto, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, has been appointed to the position of Advisory Trustee by the UA Board of Trustees.

She is the first person to hold this position, established by Board rule last year “to permit the university to take advantage of the talents, resources and experiences of individuals who may or may not be residents of the state of Ohio.”

The University of Akron

Sandra Pianalto, today and in 1975, when she was editor of the University yearbook and student observer to the Board of Trustees.

UA Board Chair Richard (Dick) Pogue says the Board considered well over 100 individuals for its first advisory trustee appointment “to bring into the boardroom expertise, knowledge and wisdom” that can provide different perspectives to the Board as it faces challenging financial issues, including dwindling state support and the need to keep tuition reasonable while expenses continue to rise. Pogue said: “As an advisory trustee, Sandy Pianalto can make us a much better body.” 

Pianalto, who has held several positions at the Bank since 1983, becoming president in 2003, participates in the formulation of U.S. monetary policy, and oversees 1,000 employees in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh who conduct economic research, supervise financial institutions, and provide payment services to commercial banks and the U.S. government.

UA Trustee Roland (Rollie) Bauer led the committee that recommended Pianalto as the first appointment. “She is in many ways uniquely qualified,” said Bauer. “She is an alumna of the University and is from Akron and has a high degree of affinity for both the University and the city. And, at the same time, she has a regional and national perspective professionally with specific expertise in the economy, business and finance and possesses a first-hand understanding of what it means to lead a high profile public organization with multiple constituencies.”

Served as 'student observer' to board in 1975

Pianalto graduated in 1976 from UA with a degree in economics. Interestingly, she was a “student observer” in 1975 and attended Board of Trustees meetings. Pianalto reflected: “I still don’t have a vote, but I have a voice. And it will be louder today than it was when I was a student.” Pianalto was also president of her senior class and editor of the yearbook. She credits UA economics professor Elizabeth Erickson for providing mentorship and career advice.

The position of advisory trustee is an uncompensated, non-voting 3-year appointment (eligible for no more than two consecutive terms), and the advisory trustee will participate in all board activities, including committee membership. The Board authorized a maximum of three advisory trustee appointments. Selection criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • success in chosen field or business;
  • state or national prominence;
  • ability to serve as an advocate for higher education;
  • ability and willingness to offer counsel to the board and president; and
  • demonstrated support of The University of Akron.

UA President Luis M. Proenza notes that Pianalto has remained engaged as an alumnus and “truly understands what we mean by a pathway to student success, the core of our strategic vision.”

Emphasis on innovation and research

Both Proenza and Pianalto have written about the role of higher education in economic development, the importance of innovation and research to economic well-being, and the need to invest in human capital through education and training. In discussing her appointment with reporters, Pianalto referred to Federal Reserve Bank research providing evidence that the two main drivers of income growth are education and innovation.

“Investments in human capital will not only help build the needed workforce of the future, but will also form the foundation of our ability to innovate both in and outside manufacturing. Over time, these investments are what will help determine our productivity and our standard of living,” wrote Pianalto in a newspaper column.

“Sandy’s passion for education and innovation makes her a natural fit as an advisory trustee,” says Proenza. “That passion, paired with her deep understanding of economic trends, will help us continue to build what we call The Akron Model, strengthening and expanding our research-driven partnerships with industry and investing in interdisciplinary clusters of innovation and growth.”

Active in the community

Pianalto adds her new role at UA to an active civic calendar. She is vice chair of the board of University Hospitals and serves as a past chair and a life director of the board of United Way of Greater Cleveland. She also serves on the boards of a number of other community organizations, including The Cleveland Foundation, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Team Northeast Ohio (Team NEO), College Now Greater Cleveland, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

After her bachelor’s degree in economics from UA, Pianalto earned a master's in economics from The George Washington University. She is a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and holds honorary degrees from The University of Akron, Baldwin-Wallace University, Kent State University, Ursuline College, Notre Dame College, Cleveland State University and John Carroll University.

Posted on the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland website are articles relevant to higher education and economic growth:

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Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-8589 or