By Geoff Gehman ’80
When Lindsay Pugh ’05 jogs on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., she sees much more than grassy esplanades and monuments. She sees a healthier, smarter version of America’s most popular, pivotal park—the country’s “front yard.”
Pugh directs corporate relations for the Trust for the National Mall, nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. She’s part of a team raising $350 million to upgrade the neglected commons from the U.S. Capitol building to the Jefferson Memorial.
“The mall means so many things to many people,” says Pugh from her office, two blocks from the White House. “There’s no other space that’s so useful, so meaningful. I’m trying to make the mall not only more accessible but more relevant.”
Pugh uses a wide set of selling skills. She learned about treating customers honorably from her father, who runs a Chevrolet dealership in Hingham, Mass., a family business for 60 years. She practiced healthy leadership at Lafayette, where she helped organize a smoke-free coalition. Public/private policy appeared on her radar during a government-affairs internship with AT&T under the supervision of Peter Jacoby ’81, vice president of federal relations for the communications giant. An internship with John Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate, taught her about cooperating on free-trade agreements.
An international affairs and Spanish graduate, Pugh was previously executive assistant to the president of the One Campaign, dedicated to relieving global poverty and disease, and finance assistant for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In 2005-2006, she was an executive assistant for William Delahunt, former U.S. representative for Massachusetts.
In January 2008 she became the Trust for the Mall’s deputy director for development, the organization’s first full-time employee. She insists her current job as director of corporate relations is a developer’s dream.
The mall, after all, houses some of the country’s most important memorials and draws nearly 30 million visitors per year, more than America’s three most popular traditional parks combined. It is loved to death. Handicapped by $350 million of deferred maintenance, the National Park Service can’t afford to add bathrooms, improve concession stands, or prevent lawns from becoming dirt asphalt in the dog days of summer.
Pugh has helped the cause financially and aesthetically. She organized and manages a committee of 35 regional business leaders that has raised more than $1.7 million. She convinced three energy companies, including Sylvania, to underwrite the replacement of traditional light bulbs in 174 lamps with LEDs, reducing energy use by a whopping 65 percent.
In February the trust announced a matching gift of $7.5 million to repair the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument from David Rubenstein, billionaire financier and philanthropist. The nation’s largest landscaping company has agreed to install underground irrigation that will keep the lawns green and grassy. The federal government has promised $100 million to shore up the tidal basin around the Jefferson Memorial, which has been sinking eight inches a year.
Pugh is especially enthusiastic about using technology for educational programming that will inform visitors about the park and its history. For instance, they will be able to tap an app to listen to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech by the Lincoln Memorial, dedicated to the president who signed the proclamation that emancipated King’s ancestors.
The trust gives Pugh the rare chance to be a triple threat: financial educator, history shepherd, architect of visions. She keeps herself and her mission fit by jogging on the mall three or four times a week.
“My job is to make the mall better reflect the personalities of the people who use it, to make it better for future generations,” says Pugh. “To create something tangible and to learn so much about history in the process only happens once in a lifetime.”