Laura B. Gowen, a former Belmont, Massachusetts resident, selflessly volunteered seventeen years of her life as the Founder and President of the National Scoliosis Foundation. She is a powerful example of philanthropy at its best and her dedication and spirit will always live on in the work of this organization.
In 1974, Mrs. Gowen showed extraordinary care and compassion towards Atlabachew Tedla, a 17 year old Ethiopian student suffering from the effects of a severe 143 degree abnormal lateral curvature of the spine (scoliosis). She sponsored Atlabachew in this country and helped him achieve his dream of higher education as he ultimately graduated from Tabor Academy and Macalester College. In her endeavor to get medical treatment for Atlabachew, she networked a team of friends and allies. With her team she raised $56,000 for Atlabachew’s hospital costs, and convinced Dr. Edward Riseborough, Chief of Orthopedics at Children’s Hospital, to perform two surgeries free of charge. He in turn provided the guidance and directive to Laura Gowen to let the world know about scoliosis and the crucial importance of early detection. This directive, nurtured by Mrs. Gowen’s desire to help others and the encouragement of her “team”, led to the birth of the National Scoliosis Foundation.
Laura Gowen utilized the focus and vision of several scoliosis patients, along with the experience of people from other non-profit organizations, especially the Stoughton and Framingham Jaycees, to act on this directive by broadening the volunteer network and converting good intentions into quantifiable, achievable results. With contagious zeal she recruited a cadre of volunteer lawyers, CPA’s, medical professionals, health officials, politicians, and businessmen to use their expertise and support and to guide the National Scoliosis Foundation through its formation, development and evolution.
Mrs. Gowen’s compassion and generosity extended beyond Atlabachew Tedla to benefit thousands of children in Massachusetts and tens of thousands of families throughout the world. Mrs. Gowen retired in 1992, but she remains an Honorary Director and a benefactor.