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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Charles McLister

President & CEO


Location: Media, PA

Founded: 1852

Industry: Health & Human Services

Charles McLister grew up in Butler, Pennsylvania, a steel town outside of Pittsburgh. He attended Pennsylvania State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in psychology (1990) and a master’s degree in applied psychological research (2008).

His mother was a nurse, and he followed her example of service to others and became a counselor for those struggling with substance use, as well as young people facing behavioral health challenges.

Through these experiences, McLister saw firsthand the impact of these issues on individuals and families. As the human services industry evolved away from institutions and toward community-based services, he saw the opportunity to build new models of care. He took another step in his education, earning his MBA from Villanova in 2010.

In 2009, McLister was named the chief executive officer of the largest psychiatric hospital in Philadelphia at the time, Fairmont Behavioral Health Hospital. He also served as the executive director of the Eastern Region of CRC Health Group — now part of Acadia Healthcare.

McLister saw that for-profit providers would always need to satisfy investors — sometimes at the expense of services. He believed that nonprofits had an unencumbered dedication to mission and staff, but they needed to use best business practices to achieve results. This belief led him back to the nonprofit world, first as the chief operating officer of an organization serving those with developmental disabilities in New Jersey and then as the president and CEO of Elwyn, a historic organization serving children and adults with both behavioral health and developmental challenges.

Elwyn is the oldest organization of its kind in the U.S. At Elwyn, McLister has modernized practices, technology and facilities to create a sustainable business model, bringing innovation to a 171-year-old nonprofit.

“About six years ago, I was in a high-paying job, two minutes from my home, working for a company with a great mission; however, the strategic fit for me was very bad,” McLister said. “Recognizing that ‘bad fit’ would eventually catch up to me, I chose to resign without having another (job) and no guarantee that I would find a job of a similar or better quality. Trusting that if I stayed focused, it would work out, I landed my dream job less than six months later.”

McLister is an active volunteer and philanthropist, serving on the board of trustees for Bancroft Neurohealth and as the chairperson of the Hopeworks Board of Trustees.

“Chuck is most proud of his efforts over the past three years, which brought Elwyn through a financial crisis (the organization posted a loss of $10 million in 2019 and received a downgrade of its bond rating), and engineered a turnaround that occurred during the largest pandemic in 100 years, such that Elwyn is now in the strongest position it has been in — posting $3.5 million in net operating income in fiscal year 22 and receiving an upgrade from Standard and Poor for its bond rating,” McLister’s team said.

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Did you know?

Chuck is a science fiction buff, with a collection of more than 200 books including the Foundation series by his favorite author, Isaac Asimov.


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