Big Pi Spotlight – Louis Shapiro ’77, PA Gamma Sigma

The Big Pi Chapter of Pi Lambda Phi is comprised of the “who’s who” of Pilam alumni. On March 24, 2018, at the Fraternity’s 123rd Founders’ Day banquet, the Big Pi Chapter welcomed its one hundred and sixty-third member, Brother Louis “Lou” Shapiro. Lou is a 1977 initiate of our Pennsylvania Gamma Sigma Chapter at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). Lou’s leadership within the healthcare industry has impacted hundreds of thousands.

A Pittsburgh, PA native, Lou grew up in Squirrel Hill, not far from his future alma mater. Growing up in a blue-collar family, attending college was not always a given. As somewhat of a surprise to Lou, he was accepted to Pitt, and enrolled the fall of 1977 along with his high school friend, and future Pilam brother, Paul Haber ’77.

As with most Gamma Sigma brothers, Lou’s Pilam journey began with a walk to the longtime Pilam chapter house at 225 N. Dithridge Street during Rush Week his first semester of freshman year. When asked to pledge, Lou accepted. Lou and Paul pledged the Fraternity in the fall of 1977 with twenty-one other men. Lou learned many lessons the semester he joined Pilam, but the one that stuck with him the most was “Trust a Brother.”

“Trust a Brother is a term that means trust those you are closest to. They have your back. No matter what you may be going through, even things that may not have made sense at the time, the bond of brotherhood was strong,” said Lou during his acceptance speech for the Big Pi Award.

Lou originally wanted to go in to medicine, but Chemistry 23 (Organic Chemistry) quickly changed his mind. Wanting to still work post-college in the healthcare industry, Lou was able to secure an internship at a local hospital through a family friend. His internship led him to earn a B.S. and then a Master;s Degree in Healthcare Administration at Pitt. Though Lou admits he may not have been the strongest of students, his work ethic and drive to succeed served him well throughout college and beyond.

Though much of his time at Pitt was filled with either studying or working as a bartender at a prominent local college pub, Lou also made time to develop his leadership skills within the chapter. He served as President of his pledge class and then later as Rex of the chapter. As Rex, Lou learned multiple lessons on leadership that would serve him well later in life. Most notably, he learned to be observant of what others want, not only focusing on his own opinions, when the chapter was presented an opportunity to sell their chapter house on Dithridge and move up to the hill to where most of the other fraternities and sororities were located. Believing it was a wonderful idea, Lou eagerly presented it to the chapter for a vote. The proposal was resoundingly defeated, sixty to one in favor of staying.

“To lead you must know where you want to go,” said Lou reflecting on his time as a leader in Pilam and his career. He continued by sharing that getting people or organizations to the goal is not as simple as just telling them what to do. Leaders must inspire those they are leading. Lou believes one of the best ways to do this is by leading from the back.
“As a leader, if you are out front, you can’t see those you are leading. You don’t know what they are thinking and you can’t see their reactions to the decisions made. If you are behind them, you can be supportive and can see how they are feeling. When leading from the back, it is also easier to be inspired by those you are leading because you can involve them and listen to them along the journey.”

After completing his Masters, Lou began working in the healthcare industry. He worked in the hospital sector of the healthcare industry in Pennsylvania in a variety of roles until becoming a Senior Consultant for McKinsey and Company in 1999. Lou then joined the Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA as Executive Vice President in 2002. After just over four years at Geisinger, Lou was recruited to become the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City, the role he still serves in today.

Under Lou’s leadership, the HSS has become one of the top hospitals in the world for orthopedics. HSS has patients from around the world, from all walks of life. Lou has helped foster a unique and palpable culture among the over 5,000 employees to consistently provide world-class service to every patient. Outside of his role at HSS, Lou has been a leader in the healthcare industry by publishing multiple articles and being a past Chairman for the Great New York Hospital Association. Lou also serves on a number of non-profit boards and as an advisor.

With his many accomplishments, Lou is most proud of those that have withstood the test of time. As he puts it, “what’s the point of doing something today that is irrelevant tomorrow?” In addition to the culture he has helped foster at HSS, Lou is proud of the work he did with Dr. Stanley Marks while they both were working for Alleghany Health Network. Dr. Marks, an Oncologist, is now the Chairman of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hillman Cancer Center, a world-class cancer treatment and research facility.

When asked what advice he has for young leaders, Lou shared the following four tips.

  1. Work really hard; harder than anyone else around you!
  2. Always continue learning. There is more you don’t know, than you do.
  3. Try to do things that make a difference. Add value where you are and make an impact.
  4. Love what you do! You can’t do tips 1-3 without this.

As members of a fraternity, it’s hard not to notice the negative views on fraternities and sororities in the media today. When asked about the relevance of Greek Life and their role in helping develop the next generation of leaders, Lou shared,

“It is easy for Greek organizations to be a focal point of negative publicity and grossly overblow certain situations because people can point at a house with [Greek] letters on it. However, kids today do need to change, adults need to change, behaviors need to change. That said, fraternities are more important today than they were before. If you can create an organization that attracts members based on the values of that organization, it can make a difference.

The Creed of Pi Lambda Phi is powerful. ‘The Elimination of Prejudice,’ are you kidding me? As an undergraduate brother, I didn’t really think about what it meant. People and universities should be rallying behind fraternities, like Pilam, to provide a vehicle to create the network that allows kids to grow up, have the right values, be leaders implementing those organizational values and help be the change in the world.”

Pi Lambda Phi would like to thank Brother Shapiro for being a shining example of what it means to Live to Creed, and offer a round of snaps on for his induction into the Big Pi Chapter.