Civic News

Friends, colleagues mourn investor and author Jeremy Nowak, who passed away at age 66

Remembered for his thought-leadership around cities, local economies and impact investment, Nowak passed away Saturday at Lankenau Medical Center.

Nowak founded The Reinvestment Fund in 1985.

(Courtesy photo)

Investor, advocate and author Jeremy Nowak, who founded impact investing firm The Reinvestment Fund, passed away Saturday at age 66.

Most recently the coauthor of The New Localism: How Cities can Thrive in the Age of Populism alongside Brookings researcher Bruce Katz, Nowak passed away due to complications from a heart attack at Lankenau Medical Center, the Inquired reporter Saturday.

With a mission to infuse neighborhoods with capital to improve quality of life, Nowak founded the Reinvestment Fund in 1985 and served as its president until 2011, when he became executive director of the William Penn Foundation for a tumultuous 18 months and later founded his own consulting firm, J. Nowak Strategy.

“Philadelphia has lost a visionary and a pioneer,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said on Twitter Saturday. “Thoughts go out to his family and friends. He made this city a better place.”

“He was my confidant, mentor, advisor, friend,” said Archna Sahay, the former city startup czar who left the Department of Commerce last summer to work for Nowak’s consulting firm. “I fear I didn’t fully live up to his expectations but I loved trying.”

According to Sahay, Nowak “had a curiosity for all things” and poured all he had into the projects he worked on, the city that surrounded him and his loved ones.

“Jeremy’s most lasting gift to Philadelphia was to build an infrastructure around data, research and financing to spur the revitalization of neighborhoods and expand opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents,” said Katz, Nowak’s co-author. “The institutions Jeremy built and catalyzed (e.g., The Reinvestment Fund, PolicyMap) have become national players and global models and are moving markets and initiatives in Philadelphia and beyond.”

“If I had to distill [his legacy] down to a few lines for the entrepreneurial community that applies both at a macro level to the ecosystem at large and specifically to entrepreneurs I think he would say: Set a vision, the bolder the better. Chart a course. And go,” Sahay said.

Nowak served on several boards of local organizations focused on science, research, policy and education, including the University City Science Center.

“Jeremy’s passing is a tremendous loss for our city and community,” OraSure CEO Steve Tang, formerly the head of the Science Center, said in an email. “He was unique in his ability to transcend the commercial, social, and civic arenas. In fact, one could say that his career as a commercial and social entrepreneur (by founding The Reinvestment Fund and scaling it into prominence), followed by his recent roles as a civic entrepreneur (through his writings and Philadelphia Citizen) made him the quintessential systems thinker and thought leader for our community.”

“He was my friend and mentor,” Tang said. “I will miss him, so very much.”

Nowak also chaired The Philadelphia Citizen, a news outlet that regularly published his columns. In recent weeks, he’d been focusing on the effects of Donald Trump’s presidency on local issues like infrastructure, law enforcement and education.

“He made us all smarter,” Roxanne Patel Shepelavy, the site’s executive director, said in an email. “And we will definitely miss him.”

“Jeremy was a friend and mentor to us,” said Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation cofounder Jay Scott. “I am certain that Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation would not exist in the form it is today, a leader in childhood cancer, without Jeremy. He guided us to push forward, push boundaries, avoid distractions and have maximum impact on childhood cancer.”

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