Pilar Frank O'Leary is an international business consultant, former lawyer, corporate executive and not-for-profit director. She is Founder and President of PFO Advisory Group, which primarily advises institutions working with Latin America and Spain on policy and business development matters. Previously, O'Leary worked as a corporate lawyer and business executive at major companies including Goldman, Sachs & Co, JP Morgan and Fannie Mae, focused largely on business and partnership development in Latin America and with the US Latino community. She also was Director of the Smithsonian Latino Center from 2005–2008, serving as senior advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Smithsonian on relations with U.S. Latino and Latin American communities.
O'Leary is the founder of Isabella & Ferdinand Spanish Language Adventures, a Spanish language learning program for children and is the producer of a number of Latin-oriented media. She executive-produced and wrote the lyrics for Ole & Play! The Songs of Isabella & Ferdinand Spanish Language Adventures, an acclaimed children's Spanish music album featuring Latin Grammy Award winners Andres Castro and Gaby Moreno and Latin Grammy nominee Adriana Lucia which is sold on iTunes and Amazon. She also co-produced the award-winning Showtime television documentary film, The Accordion Kings: The Story of Colombian Vallenato Music in collaboration with Grammy Award-winning Colombian music artist Carlos Vives for the network's Smithsonian Networks channel.
For her work in supporting the Latino community, O'Leary has been profiled in a number of media publications including Hispanic Business Magazine, Latina Magazine and Vanidades. She was featured on the cover of Washington Life Magazine as a winner of the magazine's 2006 "Substance & Style Awards." One of her fellow winners that year was then U.S. Senator Barack Obama.
Early life and education
Pilar Frank O'Leary was born in Virginia. Her father, Richard H. Frank, is CEO of Darby Overseas Investments, a private equity firm and a subsidiary of Franklin Templeton. Frank earned a Bronze Star as a captain in the Vietnam War and served in senior roles at the World Bank Group including U.S. Managing Director and Interim President of the World Bank. O'Leary's mother, Dr. Irma Melo Frank, is a native of Bogota, Colombia and Senior Associate Dean for International Programs at Georgetown School of Medicine. O'Leary grew up in a bilingual household with two younger brothers in McLean, Virginia.
O'Leary attended Georgetown University where she received both her undergraduate degree (B.S. in Western European Studies and French) and law degree (J.D.). She was in the Honors English program at Georgetown and inducted into Pi Delta Phi, the national French honor society. At Georgetown Law, O'Leary was active in campus activities including the James Brown Society of International Law and was elected President of La Alianza de Derecho, the law school's Latino students organization. O'Leary is fluent in English, Spanish and French and proficient in Portuguese and Italian.
Following her graduation from Georgetown undergraduate, O'Leary moved to Paris to work as a paralegal for White & Case, an American law firm. Upon returning to the United States, she worked for Goldman Sachs as a Latin American equities analyst before going to law school at Georgetown. During law school, O'Leary worked as a summer associate for Winthrop, Stimson Putnam & Roberts as well as Rogers & Wells, in the firm's Latin American capital markets practice. O'Leary was also selected to participate in the competitive United Nations summer internship program in the Office of the General Counsel of the UN in New York.
Following law school, O'Leary went to work as a lawyer for JP Morgan & Co., initially out of their Buenos Aires office, working on banking, securities, compliance and derivatives matters and helping the bank establish trading entities across Latin America, including in Venezuela, Peru, Chile and Colombia. After two years, O'Leary was transferred to JP Morgan's New York office, continuing to work on global derivatives legal matters. In 2000, O'Leary moved back to the Washington, D.C. area and went to work for Fannie Mae, initially as Associate General Counsel in the company's legal department before being recruited to serve as Director of Operating Initiatives and Special Assistant to the company's then Chief Operating Officer, Daniel Mudd. When Mudd became CEO, O'Leary continued to work for him. During her time in the Fannie Mae executive office, aside from serving as advisor to the COO/CEO on a wide range of business, community outreach and administrative matters, O'Leary led several projects related to minority lending including a strategic plan to increase Hispanic homeownership opportunities, the development of innovative loan-oriented partnerships with Latino organizations and the establishment of the American Dream Team Program™, a national mortgage industry internship program for minority college students. She became a spokesperson for the company on Latino issues and also traveled to Latin America on behalf of the company to help facilitate fixed income sales transactions to central banks in the region.
Smithsonian Latino Center
In 2005, O'Leary was appointed Director of the Smithsonian Latino Center as a non-government employee, serving as senior advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Smithsonian on relations with U.S. Latino and Latin American communities. At the time of O'Leary's appointment, Lawrence M. Small was Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, appointed under the Clinton Administration in January 2000. Small was a private sector executive with 35 years in banking and corporate management; he had served as president of Fannie Mae for eight years as well in leadership positions at Citicorp. Before Small arrived, the Smithsonian faced a number of serious issues regarding its budget, fundraising, and audience attendance. The Smithsonian's Board of Regents hired Small to bring management competence and business know-how to improve the institution's badly suffering bottom line and operations. According to Smithsonian reports, under Small's leadership, the Smithsonian opened the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a companion facility of the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall, inaugurated the new National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall and paved the way for Congressional authorization of the National African American Museum. O'Leary, who had been an executive at Fannie Mae, but had not overlapped with Small, was one of a group of private sector executives brought in to help revitalize the various departments within the Smithsonian during Small's tenure. She was tasked with increasing the domestic and international public recognition, programming and fundraising for the Smithsonian Latino Center.
When O'Leary assumed her position as director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, the organization was facing serious financial problems and several employees on the small staff were in peril of losing their jobs. Virtually no fundraising was being conducted to support the center's operations or Smithsonian Latino-themed programming and outreach to the broader Latin American community was non-existent. Outside of Washington there was little knowledge of the Smithsonian Latino Center at all. O'Leary set out to fix the center's problems and improve its public impact. She established a new advisory board composed of high-level representatives from the corporate, academic and government sectors and raised millions of dollars to support the center's programs and operations. She also significantly augmented the Smithsonian Latino Center's relevance and public visibility with numerous Latino government, cultural and corporate organizations, including embassies and museums across the U.S., Latin America and Spain, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and Carlos Slim's foundation, among numerous others. To raise funds and further awareness, O'Leary launched the Smithsonian Latino Center's first "Legacy Awards" benefit to honor Latinos and Latin Americans who have made significant contributions to U.S. culture. She also strengthened the management and impact of the Latino Initiatives Pool, an annual federal allocation to support Smithsonian Latino programming. To commemorate 10 years of government-funded projects, O'Leary led the publication of a commemorative book entitled, Hispanic Heritage at the Smithsonian: A Decade of the Latino Initiatives Pool.
On the programmatic front, O'Leary partnered with museums across the Smithsonian to support the development of Latino-themed exhibitions such as The Ancient Spirit of Colombian Gold (National Museum of Natural History); Retratos: 2000 Years of Latin American Portraits (National Portrait Gallery); Mexico at the Smithsonian (International Gallery) which was attended by former First Lady Laura Bush and Legacy: Spain & The United States in the Age of Independence, 1763-1848 (National Portrait Gallery) which was attended by H.R.H. the Infanta Elena of Spain. O'Leary's staff worked with museum colleagues to create bilingual educational guides for such exhibitions and conducted considerable public outreach to increase Latino audience participation. Under O'Leary's direction, the Smithsonian Latino Center also supported a Latin Grammy award-winning series of Latin American folk music recordings and organized a year-long series of Mexican-themed public programming which included a contemporary Mexican film festival headlined by actor Diego Luna and screenings of The Forgotten Eagles, an acclaimed documentary film narrated by Edward James Olmos about Mexican–American War veterans.
Notably during her tenure, O'Leary established the Smithsonian Latino Center's Young Ambassadors Program, a national leadership initiative for Latino high school seniors which was ultimately recognized as a "Bright Spot in Hispanic Education" by the White House in 2015. She also supported and led the development of an interactive educational website as well as the first stages of a Latino Virtual Museum to highlight the Smithsonian's Latino and Latin American collections. O'Leary also co-produced the award-winning documentary film for Showtime Television (Smithsonian Networks): The Accordion Kings: The Story of Colombian Vallenato, featuring Grammy award-winning Latin recording artist Carlos Vives.
In March 2007, Smithsonian Secretary Larry Small resigned after a group of Smithsonian academics and career federal employees, who strongly objected to Small's private sector style and business-oriented reforms, pressured Congress and the Smithsonian's Board of Regents to remove him. A new Inspector General of the Smithsonian was ultimately appointed and began a politically-driven investigation focused on Small which was later expanded to the entire Smithsonian executive management, in particular those who came from the private sector. Small's letter of resignation stated: "Making the Smithsonian more bureaucratic and political is not, in my view, conducive to sustaining the momentum the Smithsonian enjoys today and, therefore, I'm very troubled about what I see happening." Amidst the conflict, within a year, O'Leary and 18 other senior officials from the Smithsonian faced queries from the new Inspector Generaland resigned. After O'Leary announced her departure, her supervisor, Dr. Richard Kurin, the Undersecretary and Provost of the Smithsonian and a long-standing leader at the institution, sent an email to all staff at the institution praising O'Leary's tenure, stating,
"Pilar has done outstanding work in enhancing the public outreach and visibility of the Smithsonian Latino Center…[bringing] together strong leaders from academic, foundation, government and corporate sectors to support the work of the Center and develop[ing] partnerships with scores of cultural organizations in the United States and across the hemisphere."
Latino outreach activities
Following her departure from the Smithsonian, O'Leary re-engaged with Latino outreach issues. She collaborated with Grammy Award-winning music producer Andres Levin and his not-for-profit Music Has No Enemies along with recording artist will.i.am to produce a Latin star-studded video entitled "Podemos con Obama" featuring Lin Manuel Miranda, Jessica Alba, George Lopez, Paulina Rubio, Alejandro Sanz, Yerba Buena and others in support of Obama's presidential campaign and U.S. immigration reform. O'Leary also served as Talent Director of the Latino Inaugural Ball for President Barack Obama's 2008 inauguration which featured appearances and performances by Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Alejandro Sanz, Yerba Buena and others, many of whom O'Leary personally recruited. O'Leary became involved with the Spanish Catholic Center of the Catholic Charities Foundation which supports local Latino immigrants and co-founded The Washington Ballet Latino Dance Fund, a program that provides scholarships to talented young dancers from Latin America as well as funding free dance programs at Washington DC area public schools in low-income minority neighborhoods.
Isabella & Ferdinand Spanish Language Adventures
In 2009, O'Leary and Georgetown law school classmate Alexandra Migoya co-founded Isabella & Ferdinand Spanish Language Adventures, a Spanish immersion program for children in the Washington, D.C. and Miami metropolitan areas. O'Leary and Migoya co-developed an original Spanish Culture-Centric™ language curriculum based on the standards of the Instituto Cervantes of Spain and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Through the curriculum, children learn a rigorous standard of Spanish while they explore the art, language and culture of Spain and Latin America. O'Leary also wrote the lyrics and executive-produced the highly acclaimed children's music album, Ole & Play! The Songs of Isabella & Ferdinand Spanish Language Adventures which is sold on iTunes and Amazon. O'Leary achieved positive coverage of the program in many media outlets including The Washington Post, CNN, Univision, Fox News, Telemundo and many other major media outlets. O'Leary led collaborations for Isabella & Ferdinand with the Embassies of Spain and Latin American countries as well as cultural organizations such as GALA Hispanic Theater, The National Gallery of Art, The Washington Ballet, the Kennedy Center, The Coral Gables Museum, the Mexican Cultural Institute, the Gary Nader Gallery, the Lowe Museum of Art and others. Isabella & Ferdinand is now in its 7th year of operation and O'Leary remains involved as an ex officio Board member.
PFO Advisory Group
In 2013, O'Leary began consulting for Facebook on its government engagement strategy in Colombia and across the Latin American region. She also advised Facebook executives on a number of policy issues related to those markets and facilitated meetings with top government officials from Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Brazil, including organizing a visit between Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as well as helping coordinate the official opening of the company's new Buenos Aires sales office.
In 2014, O'Leary began advising the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF), a nonprofit organization whose Board includes leading women journalists such as Judy Woodruff, Katty Kay and Christiane Amanpour. O'Leary was tasked with leading the research and development of a proposal to expand IWMF's work into 5 countries in Latin America and along the U.S. Mexico Border that ultimately resulted in a $5 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. As Director of Strategic Engagement, O'Leary also led the development of several important partnerships for the organization in the Americas including many Latin American embassies, Facebook, Instagram, Mashable, 21st Century Fox, Univision, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the Inter-American Development Bank, Revista Semana and others.
In 2016 O'Leary formally created the PFO Advisory Group and began consulting full-time, advising entities working with Latin America. In this capacity, O'Leary serves as an advisor to the Embassy of Colombia and helped organize the 2016 official visit of President Juan Manuel Santos to the White House and is currently counseling the Embassy on the establishment of the US-Colombia Business Council and other strategic partnerships.
Boards and charities
O'Leary is actively involved in a number of charitable organizations supporting the arts, education and Latino causes domestically and internationally. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, Imagination Stage, Transformer and Isabella & Ferdinand (ex officio) and is a member of the Georgetown Entertainment and Media Alliance, among others. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.
O'Leary has been a frequent speaker on Latino political and cultural issues and has been recognized in numerous news publications for her work. Recognitions include "2006 Influentials: Ten to Watch" (Hispanic Business Magazine); "15 Phenomenal Latinas of 2006" (Latina Magazine); "2006 Triunfadores";"Han Triunfado" (Vanidades) and the 2006 "Substance & Style" Awardee (Washington Life Magazine), for which one of her fellow winners was then U.S. Senator Barack Obama. O'Leary has spoken at The White House, the Girls Scouts of America, the U.S. State Department and other major organizations. She was the 2008 commencement speaker for the New World School of the Arts in Miami.
|Ole & Play! The Songs of Isabella & Ferdinand Spanish Language Adventures (music album)||Executive Producer|
|The Accordion Kings: The Story of Colombian Vallenato (documentary film: Showtime Television/Smithsonian Channel)||Co-producer and Senior Consultant|
|The Price of Silence (music video commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights produced for Amnesty International)||Co-producer and Talent Coordinator in collaboration with Music Has No Enemies (Andres Levin) and LinkTV|
|Podemos Con Obama (music video that supported the election of Barack Obama as President and focuses on issues affecting the Latino community such as immigration and healthcare reform)||Co-producer in collaboration with Music Has No Enemies (Andres Levin)|
O'Leary is married to William R. O'Leary, an executive at Russell, Reynolds & Associates, former chief marketing officer and Clinton White House official. They have 3 young children and reside in Bethesda, Maryland.