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PC Profile: Catherine McGuckin Cantlin OPC '92

Passing through Penn Charter in the first modern-day coed class was a gratifying and demanding experience for Catherine McGuckin Cantlin OPC '92.

Catherine McGuckin Cantlin headshot

On top of the ordinary trials of adolescence, Cantlin and her female classmates faced the unusual challenge of integrating into an institution that hadn’t graduated girls since the late 1800s.

In retrospect, it was a challenge that prepared her well for life beyond the red doors. “I think a lot of us went into male- dominated professions as a result of being in that environment— myself included,” she said.

Cantlin, now an executive director at project management firm MACRO, a Savills company, draws on her dual training in architecture and business to develop and manage construction projects for a wide range of clients in the corporate, state, education and health care sectors. Navigating her professional life, she found, has not been so dissimilar from navigating Penn Charter. “When I started my career,” Cantlin said, “I was outnumbered in a male-dominated profession and I had to prove myself a little more.”

And prove herself she did, so much so that Cantlin was charged with representing Comcast Corporation and NBC10/Telemundo62 for the new Comcast Technology Center in downtown Philadelphia. The 60-story skyscraper, completed in 2018, is the tallest in the commonwealth, capped by the highest-altitude hotel in the country and a restaurant helmed by a Michelin-starred chef. Its one-and-a-half- million-square-foot floor plan boasts television studios, shops, offices, a bi-level commissary and a massive fitness center.

Her expertise in both architecture and business made Cantlin well equipped to manage the various interests involved in such a formidable undertaking. “It was an incredible project to be a part of, not just the design or the construction, but the entire project from beginning to end,” she explained. After seven years at PC, Cantlin completed a bachelor’s degree in arts and science at Lehigh University, a master’s in architecture at the Catholic University of America and, more than a decade later, an MBA from Saint Joseph’s University. “I got my business degree because I wanted to learn about the business side of what I do,” she said, “but I’ve realized how much that training applies to good project management, too.”

Cantlin cites Philadelphia’s rich architectural landscape as an inspiration for her professional path, and after several years spent honing her craft in Washington, D.C., she hurried home when an opportunity to work in construction management presented itself. “I’m a huge fan of Philadelphia,” Cantlin said. “It’s a beautiful city, and it’s wonderful right now because there’s so much activity and development. We have all these great universities and hospitals and people who want to live here.”

Twenty-odd years since returning to the City of Brotherly Love, Cantlin has already helped etch new contours into its skyline, and her influence continues to spread. One of her latest projects is on behalf of National Real Estate Development for the Jefferson Health Specialty Care Pavilion, which will bring together more than a dozen specialized health care practices. Cantlin’s connection to Penn Charter runs deep. She was preceded at PC by a generation of McGuckins—father Robert OPC ’57 and uncles James OPC ’48 and William OPC ’52—and overlapped at School House Lane with her cousin Jeffrey OPC ’88. The Kurtz Center’s band room is graced by a McGuckin family Steinway piano, a gift from her Aunt Carol and Uncle Bill McGuckin in recognition of Bill’s parents’ love for the school.

In 2013, Cantlin was recognized by the Athletic Honor Society for her accomplishments as a three-sport varsity athlete in field hockey, swimming and lacrosse. She was a “pioneer” for girls athletics at PC who helped set high standards for the program, former athletics director Debbie White remarked at the time. The Class of 1992’s girls embraced that pioneer mentality without letting it go to their heads. “We took pride in the fact that we were the flag bearers,” Cantlin remembered,
“but a big focus was doing well and setting a good example for what having girls at Penn Charter would be like.”

The Quaker values of community and humility have stuck with Cantlin since graduation, despite her professional distinction. “It’s funny: I didn’t realize it until I got older,” she said, “but certain traits I hold profoundly close are in large part due to Penn Charter.” Nowadays, her “biggest passion”— skyscrapers aside—is raising her three children, ages 11, 13 and 14.

– Ray Bailey OPC '09