Patty Rouse just turned 79 years old. But this spunky, bright-eyed lady certainly doesn't act her age. Each weekday, Rouse, the co-founder of The Enterprise Foundation, reports to work by 10 a.m. and never leaves before 6 p.m.—well, except for the one time she left early for her grandson's hockey game, she admits in her characteristic no-nonsense manner.
Obviously Rouse hasn't slowed down a bit since she graced the June 1998 cover of MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE featuring The Enterprise Foundation—she's been too busy keeping up with her duties as vice president, secretary, and trustee at the Columbia, Md.-based nonprofit, which helps low-income families find decent, affordable housing. Rouse founded the company in 1982 with her husband Jim, and since his death in 1996 she has been dedicated to keeping his vision alive.
“I come in every day,” says Rouse. “It's really my life. I am just so determined to help carry out Jim's vision of a better America.”
Her dedication certainly doesn't go unnoticed by colleagues. “She's had two hip replacements, and yet she comes right back to work,” says Bart Harvey, chairman and CEO of The Enterprise Foundation, who's worked with Rouse for more than 20 years. “She is just determined that this vision she and Jim had so many years ago is going to move forward.”
To help keep that vision alive, Rouse is cataloging the company's history by painstakingly organizing old letters, board minutes, and other documents that line the shelves of her office. “We don't have an archive,” says Rouse. “One of the things I am doing now is trying to go through the old files [in my office], and put them in better order for the future.”
Rouse's role as historian is essential to the growth of The Enterprise Foundation, adds Harvey. “As we change and new people come [aboard] that never knew Jim Rouse, she is giving us a historical background to go back and to rethink and relive to some degree the passions Jim had about what he hoped this foundation would do.”
And The Enterprise Foundation has certainly grown since MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE's 1998 cover story. Last year, the foundation pledged to accomplish more in the next five years than in its entire 20-year history, says Harvey. The company is well on the way to its goal, committing more than $810 million to improve low-income communities and helping to build or renovate more than 16,500 affordable homes in 2004.