Tony Smith is a Chicagoan through and through. Born in Bronzeville and raised in Englewood, Tony now calls Hyde Park “home” and the rest of the city his playground.
“I tell people ‘Chicago is a smaller, cleaner New York,’” he said. “It’s architecturally stunning. It’s culturally rich. It’s diverse, has great restaurants and is proximate to so many of my lifelong friends and family.”
And though he’s fond of its many cultural features, Tony’s adoration of the Windy City extends beyond its offerings of fun and adventure. He especially loves the sense of community that surrounds Chicago’s many neighborhoods. So much that he works day in and day out to ensure they’re thriving places to live, work and play.
At PNC Bank, Tony and his team partner with the city and state, as well as philanthropic organizations, to bring affordable housing, early education and safe spaces to communities through lending and investing. “We’re the heart of the bank, and our job is to make sure the bank is a great corporate citizen in all of our markets,” Tony said. “Ultimately, what we try to do is strengthen neighborhoods, particularly under-served neighborhoods where people are proud to call “home.”
In addition, Tony supports United Way’s work to build stronger neighborhoods through our Neighborhood Network Initiative.
Through it all, he hopes to pay forward the support that helped him get to where he is today.
“What I didn’t understand at the time — coming from a low-income family in Englewood — I didn’t know that we were poor,” he said. “What I know today is that there were a lot of folks who I’ve never met who were giving money to organizations that affected my life, whether it was the program that brought reading opportunities to our neighborhood center or the programs that took us to camp or bought us lunch during the summer.”
“I certainly understand today how different my life would have been had I not had those opportunities, that exposure, that generosity,” he added.
To ensure the next generation of Chicagoans receive the same opportunity, Tony doesn’t just give to United Way, he spreads the word about our mission. As a senior leader at PNC, he actively engages his PNC employees and social network to invest in our work.
“I believe that when we all work to create a more equitable America, we are better off,” he said. “Equitable doesn’t mean that everybody gets the same. It means that people who need something get what they need.”