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Executive Spotlight: Gary Bowen

“Beyond the Zoom: A Passion to Support Nationwide Children’s Hospital”

I recently had the opportunity to interview Gary Bowen for DLZ’s Executive Spotlight, a blog showcasing DLZ leadership to get to know team members personally and discover a hidden talent. While Gary is an accomplished Vice President with more than 22 years of experience, he also dedicates himself to children’s causes.  A particularly urgent cause around the holiday season is that many organizations depend on the generous spirit of volunteers.

We talked about his passion for philanthropy, and how his volunteer work complements his professional life.  We started off by discussing his early years.   Gary reminisced, “I’ve been part of the DLZ family for 22 years, and it was my first “real job.”  I was a recent college graduate who painted houses until I could find an opportunity to start a career.  One of my first interviews was with DLZ, and Barry Wong made me an offer on the spot.  I accepted the position, not really knowing what to expect.  Barry took me under his wing and provided the kind of mentorship that is part of why DLZ is so successful.  Like so many people at DLZ, Barry took the time to develop the people on his team and ultimately makes everyone more successful. In a lot of ways, I have grown up at DLZ, starting in the field and the lab as a technician and then progressing through several positions within our Field Services discipline.  I have loved every minute of it and always enjoy the challenges of the job.

One of my favorite aspects of my time at DLZ has been working on hundreds of projects that have made a real difference in the community.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know our clients and building teams that can solve their problems no matter how complex.  I hope I have been able to pay it forward by mentoring others along the way.

I was born in Maryland, grew up in Central Kentucky, and have lived in Columbus, Ohio, for over 20 years.  

I’ve always loved the outdoors, whether it is boating on the Chesapeake Bay or hiking in the Red River Gorge, and I think this made it easy to be passionate about construction and sustainability.  I met my wife, Maura, while attending Centre College in Danville, KY, and I moved to Columbus after graduation to start our life together in her hometown.  Maura works for the Abbott Nutrition Health Institute and is a great writer, successful podcaster, and loves music. 

We have two sons: Henry, who is 15, and Ollie, who is 13.  Henry is a great drummer, has started investing, and loves to cook.  Ollie loves football, baseball, basketball and is always up on the news and current events. I’ve been fortunate to coach their teams and volunteer for a lot of their other activities.  As a family, we love to travel.  We’ve been to Ireland, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, and Spain and hope to make a trip to Japan.  We also love hiking, camping, fishing, and boating.

Gary Bowen
Gary Bowen’s Family (L to R): Henry, Maura, Gary, Ollie

I’ve always had an interest in philanthropy and have sought out opportunities to donate my time and energy to causes in the community.  While at Centre College, I found several opportunities to give back, including being the philanthropy chair for my fraternity, coordinating campus blood drives, volunteering at the local hospital, and organizing Fall yard cleanups for elderly community members.  Fast forward to moving to Columbus, joining DLZ, and marrying my college sweetheart, both our boys dealt with severe respiratory issues as infants. They received world-class care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH).  Maura and I were so grateful for the care our boys received. We were so impressed with the hospital staff and capabilities but experienced firsthand the fear, uncertainty, and heartache of watching our asthmatic children unable to breathe. We had the experience of having one of our sons tested for cystic fibrosis and remembered the anxiety of waiting for the results, knowing that the news is not good for families in many cases. We were fortunate to receive good news and ultimately have two healthy children but realized not everyone is that fortunate, and we’ve seen how critical NCH is to the community.

Our experiences with NCH motivated me to find a way to give back. In 2009, I discovered the Development Board, which is a dynamic group of philanthropic-minded business professionals who give generously of their time, talent, and resources to further the life-saving mission of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Founded in 1971 to enhance the relationship between Nationwide Children’s and the local business community, the Board has grown to more than 175 active and life members representing a wide variety of companies and industries throughout central Ohio.

The funds the Development Board has raised over the years have benefited annual needs as well as long term and critical needs identified by the hospital. The Development Board has been instrumental in funding:

  • $1.5 million endowment fund for Child Abuse Prevention at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (1999)
  • $1.0 million endowment fund for the hospital with the goal of reaching $1 million by 2000 (1997)
  • $1.5 million Endowed Chair in Critical Care Medicine (2008)
  • $2.5 million gift agreement benefiting the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Center for Family Safety and Healing. (2018)
  • $200,000 gift to the Lawyers for Kids program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (2020)

In an effort to raise money throughout the community, the Development Board hosts several city-wide events. These include the Woody Hayes Celebrity Classic, Pay It Forward Party, Rock ‘N Bowl, Columbus Duck Race and Slice of Columbus. These fundraisers have raised more than $18 million since the creation of the board to support the good work of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Since 2009, I had the honor of serving on several event committees, founding/chairing the Columbus Duck Race, and serving as the Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and the President of the Board.  It was an honor to lead an organization that makes such a significant impact on the community and the world through fundraising for treatment and research.  I’ve always encouraged DLZ staff to get involved in the community and find something they are passionate about.  The relationships you develop volunteering are meaningful in the business world, and you get opportunities to develop skills that may also be beneficial in your career.  I found opportunities to lead diverse groups of volunteers, plan large scale fundraisers, manage event logistics, develop corporate fundraising strategies; all while developing my leadership style, and making lifelong friends. 

I also gained a better understanding of the role Nationwide Children’s plays in our community.

The patient care portion was evident to me the first time I walked into the hospital.  I quickly learned through the Development Board that the hospital also provides advocacy for children and families, pediatric research, education, and behavioral health services.  While all of this is important, pediatric research became a focus for the board and me as an individual.  The ability to improve children’s outcomes locally and globally through research will always be something I am passionate about and I hope others will be too.

As we finished our time together, Gary was headed off to meet with his team on a current project.  To learn more about the Development Board or if you would like to donate, click here.

Executive Spotlight Tom Hessler – Beyond the Zoom

Executive Spotlight Tom Hessler – Beyond the Zoom

I had the opportunity to interview Tom Hessler for DLZ’s “Executive Spotlight”, a regular blog that goes behind the scenes to showcase DLZ leadership. While Tom is an accomplished Director in DLZ’s water practice, with more than 25 years of experience, he is also a talented musician.

We talked about his love of music and how his hobby continues to compliment his professional life. Tom reminisced about his early years, “My Dad worked for Firestone as a real estate manager and we moved several times while I was growing up. I was born in Syracuse NY, then moved to Boston MA, then to Upstate NY near NYC, Green Twp. near Akron, Ohio then finally landing in high school in Medina. Nothing was more “fun” than moving as a freshman in high school….that was a bit rough. Fast forward, I studied at the University of Akron and graduated with a BS in Civil Engineering in 1990.” Tom said.

When I asked Tom if music has always been a part of his life he shared, “I was fortunate to grow up with three older brothers, so I was exposed to a lot of classic rock greats like the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who and Black Sabbath. I continue to love this era the most, but several 90’s bands like Soundgarden, Alice and Chains and System of a Down are also at the top of my playlist.”

“I started playing in a serious band back in Akron during college and have been playing for over 30 years. The current band “DT and the Shakes” has been together almost seven years and the lead guitarist is my best friend who started with me in 1989. I also played six years in the alternative rock band Trainwreck Radio with my neighbor who in a past life opened for Green Day and Urge Overkill.”

Tom grew up in a family that was not afraid to sing, he commented “I’ve always liked singing and my parents sounded pretty good when they did it so I figured I would give it a try. A couple of drinks to get started usually does the trick!” he added.

Recently, the virus has interrupted the Hessler DT and the Shakes performance schedule, but they are eager to get back at it. Before coronavirus, they got together every other week for a few hours. “It’s been hit and miss since March” Tom shared, “When you play with good musicians, we usually have a new song down after a couple takes. It’s a great way to relax after working all day.”

So when I asked Tom, “what is your best story as a member of a band?” he laughed. “Well, I can’t tell the best story in detail — but it was witnessed by several people from the Akron and Cleveland offices at the Highland Tavern……let’s just say there was an over enthusiastic dancer enjoying our rendition of “Schools Out”. Happy anniversary Tom and Marla Sisley!”

What venues do you play at? “We play at local clubs in the Cleveland, Akron and Kent area about once a month. We have only played once since the pandemic. It was an outdoor show which I like to call “Coronafest”, since over 200 people showed up and did not behave and follow the rules. I would say our best venue had to be the 2016 DLZ 100th Anniversary Party which was a blast. Thanks again DLZ for that!”

Are you married? Children? “I have been married to Elaine for 25 years this December (not sure why she puts up with me!). She is a professor at Cuyahoga Community College. I have one daughter Erin who is currently trying to attend Ohio University as a sophomore studying Environmental Geology. When I asked if Erin inherited his music gene he shared, “Elaine used to play trumpet and was a member of the Ohio State jazz band as an undergrad student. Erin not so much……” Other hobbies? “I enjoy playing golf, biking, skiing, kayaking, hiking with my dog Rosie, and travelling with my family. We have been lucky enough to travel to Australia, Iceland, Alaska, and most of Western Europe and the US over the years.”

“Lately there is no real typical weekend. The most excitement is having social distance parties with the neighbors. If a cornhole game breaks out, that’s living! Hopefully, the Browns will provide something to look forward to on Sunday this fall.”

As we wrapped up our time together, I asked, “what would you like your professional community to know about you?” He paused and went on, “Working for DLZ for over 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to work for several different design disciplines working on CSO tunnels and near surface connection structures, sanitary and storm sewers, major water distribution mains, local water lines, condition assessment and pipe rehabilitation, site improvements, roadway and bike trails, highway and pedestrian bridges, and construction administration and inspection. DLZ has provided excellent opportunities to grow as a professional engineer. Currently, I am the Northeast Ohio Director of Water Practice and really enjoy working for our water and wastewater clients. Along with being a Professional Engineer in several states, I am a licensed Surveyor in the State of Ohio.” And the curtain dropped.…..Tom was headed off to meet with his team on a current project.