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Cascade: No. 55, Summer/Fall 2004

Vera Bowders: A Remembrance

Vera W. Bowders, manager and community development advisor in the Philadelphia Fed's Community Affairs Department, died suddenly on July 26, 2004. Vera, who died of a pulmonary embolism following surgery to stabilize a broken ankle several days earlier, was 51.

A central part of Community Affairs since she joined the department in 1990, Vera was — as she described herself on her resume — "a self-motivated individual who thrives on challenge." She had great expertise in analyzing lending and demographic data and trends in the Third Federal Reserve District. She organized many conferences, conducted outreach meetings, oversaw the department budget, and represented the department on Federal Reserve System committees.

In her early years in Community Affairs, she prepared community profiles and organized "council" meetings of bankers and nonprofit and government representatives in communities throughout the Third Federal Reserve District.

In the past year, she organized Reinventing America's Older Communities, a national three-day conference. She invited 55 speakers and oversaw room, meal, and registration arrangements for 423 attendees. Two years ago, she organized "Tools for Building Sustainable Rural Communities," a major two-day conference held in Wilkes-Barre, PA. She also recently guided the redesign of the department's community profiles to make them more useful to bankers and others.

Before joining the Philadelphia Fed, Vera served as a neighborhood specialist for the Greater Philadelphia Economic Development Coalition, helping nonprofits such as Advocate CDC and Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation on affordable-housing feasibility analysis and fund-raising. She also worked with business owners in Philadelphia's Hunting Park West neighborhood and designed programs for the unemployed.

Prior to that, she assisted small-business owners in North Philadelphia as assistant director of Temple University's small business development center.

Community Affairs staff members remember Vera as vibrant, outgoing, funny, spontaneous, and down-to-earth. She was a team player who counseled new members of the department and one who willingly pitched in and helped out at various department events.

She had extraordinary organizational and computer skills, and she deftly organized and executed major projects. She could figure out the best way to analyze reams of data to find significant trends and did so with uncanny speed.

She understood community-development lending from the perspectives of both nonprofits and banks. Her work with nonprofits in Philadelphia led her to feel a kinship with nonprofit developers and CRA officers working in community development. She had a special interest in rural communities and felt that their needs were often ignored or forgotten.

Vera was born in Shirleysburg (population 138) in Huntingdon County, PA. She held an undergraduate degree in music education from Pennsylvania State University and an M.B.A. from Temple University. In addition to her many professional skills, Vera was an accomplished cook, seamstress, and gardener. She is survived by her husband, Tim, and daughter, Andrea.