“I first met Jeremy 20 years ago. He was a remarkable leader. Hardworking, resourceful in finding opportunities to do good, intelligent beyond all imagination,” says John Summers. “He truly was someone who was brilliant at thinking through new strategies, and executing them.”
Summers, a lawyer with Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, was formerly board chair at Reinvestment Fund, the organization Nowak founded 30 years ago to improve the quality of life in underserved neighborhoods.
Using analytical and financial tools, Reinvestment Fund brings high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to communities that need better access—and, in so doing, attracts further investment—to help families lead healthier, more productive lives.
In the wake of Nowak’s untimely death last summer, Summers says the Reinvestment Fund thought long and hard about how to memorialize his legacy. “We wanted to be prospective, not just retrospective, thinking about initiatives that would move things forward.”
Nowak, as anyone who encountered him knows, stood for many things: the exchange of ideas; people; the arts; getting stuff done. It is in that spirit that the Reinvestment Fund announced today the launch of three initiatives in Nowak’s honor.
First, there’s the Jeremy Nowark Memorial Lecture, a series in partnership with Penn Institute for Urban Research (PennIUR). The first lecture, to be held in January 2020, will focus on the new localism work that Nowak and Bruce Katz, a Citizen contributing writer and director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel, championed.
The second initiative is a creative placemaking fund—a seed capital fund for community-based arts and culture projects.
“We wanted to be prospective, not just retrospective, thinking about initiatives that would move things forward.”
“Creative placemaking was really one of Jeremy’s strongest passions at the end of his time at the Reinvestment Fund,” says Don Hinkle-Brown, president and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “I remember how excited he was when Rocco Landesman took over NEA (National Endowment for the Arts), and when he and Linda Ronstadt testified in front of Congress about the importance of arts in communities.”
Reinvestment Fund has been supporting arts and cultural institutions since its earliest days, including one of the first loans Hinkle-Brown worked on with Nowak, to Painted Bride Arts Center. “That has always been a part of our work,” he says. “It would be an easy thing to eliminate if you’re looking for efficiencies, if you’re looking for scale. But we want to cement that it stays part of our work.”
The third effort is the Nowak Fellowship, a year-long fellowship based at Reinvestment Fund supporting a pre-graduate school fellow who’s interested in building strong, healthy and more equitable communities through capital, analytics and expertise.
“Over time, there will be Nowak fellows sprinkled in our region and across the country who have been able to spend a year that is formative in their development,” Summers explains.
The honors in Nowak’s name add to a catalog of such remembrances since last year, including those at The Citizen, where he was founding board chair.
This year, Foodizen columnist Jason Wilson is The Citizen’s first Nowak Fellow, exploring the intersection of food, culture and community. And this year, The Citizen gave its first Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award, a $50,000 prize to the Women’s Community Revitalization Project for community-centered development work that is in the spirit of Nowak’s life work. Both initiatives are funded by Spring Point Partners.
At Reinvestment Fund, the lecture series, the placemaking fund, the fellowship—Summers says these touch on ideas, capital and people, three pillars that Nowak approached with endless thoughtfulness, and a tireless commitment to improving lives in Philadelphia and beyond.Photo via Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia