The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Frances Sheehan — 2017


Ms. Sheehan was born in England and became an American citizen as a teenager. A mother of two and a resident of Swarthmore, Frances learned early on the value of making the most of her time. She recalls her first job fondly, “I was a babysitter (with two sisters, the three of us were a Babysitting Machine!) and my mother taught us that even after the kids went to bed we needed to tidy up, wash any dishes in the sink, etc. In other words, we were still being paid and should be useful until there wasn’t anything obvious to do and only then could we relax and watch TV. The lesson?  Going above and beyond the call of duty pays off – we were in high demand!” That early lesson was not lost on Frances who later went on to become the Chief Executive Officer of Planned Parenthood of Chester County for twelve years (1990-2002) and the recipient of many community/regional awards, as well as serving on numerous boards and committees. Ms. Sheehan served as President and CEO of the Brandywine Health Foundation (BHF) in Coatesville for 15 years, and helped distribute $15 million in funding for services and programs to benefit Coatesville area’s residents. In January of 2017 Frances became President of Crozer-Keystone Community Foundation.

Like Rebecca Lukens, Frances realized the value of investing in her community. “I was raised Catholic with a “do good in the world” message, and I was a Girl Scout, and my mother was always doing something like volunteering in our local library or delivering Meals on Wheels – I think those are early lessons that send a message to young people that living your faith involves service and that being engaged in your community is important. When I graduated from college, those early experiences, as well as the fact that I was turned off from private industry – there were so few women in leadership back then, probably impacted my interest in working in a change-making non-profit career.”

Scott G. Huston, the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum’s President, applauds this year’s choice for the Rebecca Lukens Award. “Frances has been a true friend to NISHM since its inception. At every turn, Frances would lend her resources (and the resources of her organization) to enrich our mission and the goals we have set forth—such as BHF’s Coatesville Youth Initiative, where student interns from the community would spend the summer working at NISHM. Scott also appreciates Frances’ unique birds-eye view of NISHM.  “I was a history major in college so I was attracted to the Museum’s mission from the beginning and have been fortunate to watch the organization grow and evolve over the 12 plus years that the Brandywine Health Foundation has been located in the Lukens Executive Office Building (home base to NISHM),” cites Frances.  

Looking forward, Frances says, “I applaud people who are engaged in their communities, take the time to become informed about all we know about how to deliver good health care, and how to build an equitable, high quality education system, and then vote thoughtfully.  We can have different opinions about how to accomplish those goals of course but engagement in meaningful ways is critical.”