Elise Vider, 1951-2021

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Elise Vider, one of the founding members of DAG in 2002 and our chair in 2015-20, passed away earlier this week after a heroic battle with a cruel illness. She was a friend, colleague, and leader, and DAG members remember her, mourn her, and send our love to her family.


After college, Elise worked as a journalist in Connecticut. She then moved to the Philadelphia area, where she trained as a historic preservationist and architectural historian at Penn.  Over the next decades, she held executive positions in the Preservation Alliance and the Center City District and founded her own business as a writer and editor. In 2011, she directed the year-long “Gray Area” project, which critically examined contemporary historic preservation practices. It was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.


Elise was an irreplaceable ingredient in the human chemistry of DAG for more than twenty years.  A member of the organization's founding cohort, she was a leader throughout our subsequent history. In fact, in 2012, she wrote our history (up till then): https://designadvocacy.org/forum/the-first-ten-years-of-the-design-advocacy-group-of-philadelphia


Under Elise’s leadership, DAG attained new maturity and sophistication.  We developed strategic goals, wrote and adopted bylaws, established four standing taskforces, obtained 501c3 status as an affiliate of Culture Trust, and won a second William Penn Foundation grant.  Our monthly meetings grew in ambition, professionalism, and attendance; we sponsored an increasing number of evening events, energized our communications, began to raise the funds needed to sustain the organization, and continued our hi-profile advocacy and education, for which Elise was our public voice. In her last months as DAG chair, in 2020, Elise led us as we met the technical challenges of the pandemic with ingenuity and the moral challenges of the social crisis with integrity and commitment. 


A memorial service will be held at the Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square, on Saturday, October 23, at 1 PM.


Inga Saffron’s obituary of Elise in the Inquirer is here:  https://www.inquirer.com/obituaries/elise-vider-historic-preservation-alliance-design-advocacy-group-development-architecture-urbanism-parking-center-city-district-20211007.html



DAG Forum essays do not represent the opinion of the DAG Steering Committee, rather those of the individual authors, who seek to broaden our perspective of critical issues that require thoughtful responses.