The Free Library of Philadelphia Board of Trustees has elected Folasade (Sade) Olanipekun-Lewis to serve as its new chair starting in June 2021. “The 21st century library is more than a place where you go to check out books,” says Olanipekun-Lewis, who has served as treasurer for the library’s board since 2016, as well as the co-chair of the board’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. “It’s become our neighborhood cultural center. It’s become our neighborhood job placement center. It’s become a place where we feed our children. It’s a nucleus and a safe haven.”
Olanipekun-Lewis is currently the Regional Director of Government and Airport Affairs at American Airlines. Her prior career includes years of experience of leadership and financial management in city government; she has previously served as City Treasurer for the City of Philadelphia, Chief Financial Officer for the School District of Philadelphia, Deputy Commerce Director for Finance and Administration for the City of Philadelphia, Chief Financial Officer for Philadelphia City Council, and Chief Administrative Officer of the Philadelphia International Airport.
She is also a Fels alumna (Master of Government Administration ‘96), and currently teaches Critical Issues in Public Finance. “Fels was the best experience for me,” reflects Olanipekun-Lewis, who was referred to the program by word of mouth while working in the City Treasurer’s Office after law school. “Maybe because I was a little older, going into the program was a different academic experience for me than going to law school. I absolutely loved it, plus many of the folks I met in my class are doing amazing things within the space of government.”
Olanipekun-Lewis feels the same way about her students. “I absolutely love teaching. Engaging in the discourse and talking about ideas and seeing folks have these ‘Aha!’ moments, and all in the space of good government? I’m in my bliss,” she laughs. “I love hearing what the younger generation is thinking about, exchanging ideas, providing guidance—and then seeing them go off and do great things.”
From her career in city government to teaching to her service on local boards of trustees, Olanipekun-Lewis is passionate about public service. She often describes her role as a bridge, and looks forward to strengthening the relationship between the City of Philadelphia and the Free Library.
To learn more, visit the LPS News article: Penn alumna and instructor Sade Olanipekun-Lewis elected board chair of the Free Library of Philadelphia