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2016 Most Influential Women Honoree: Devra Gower

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A career is like a marathon, Devra Gower’s boss once told her, and she’s taking the advice all the way to the finish line.

The metaphor came from Connell Insurance Inc. President Tim Connell, following some client appointments they made when she was a new group benefits producer. It hit home with her. Gower is a fitness trainer and marathon runner.

“She is now taking the confidence of her running that has helped her personally succeed and turned it into the inner initiative that we all need to succeed in business,” Connell says.

Gower worked at Connell Insurance for seven years, left in 2013 to join Coventry Health Care/Aetna Inc. and then returned to Connell in 2016 to manage the benefits department.

“(She) stayed professional enough to keep her options open, and I am happy to say has now come back to Connell an even stronger leader and more developed individual,” Connell says. “In 30-plus years of business, I can count on one hand the amount of people who have been able to do this with any business in a successful manner.”

Gower now oversees 11 in the department, including two senior account managers, four account managers and five producers. Gower also serves as the company’s internal wellness coordinator.

“We had been holding on-site fitness classes at our Hollister locations for years but recently negotiated with a trainer to include our Springfield office,” Gower says. “I love seeing the positive effect it has on one’s physical fitness but mostly their emotional fitness and the motivation it has created.

In 2013, she checked the Boston Marathon off her bucket list.

“It took me years to qualify, but that’s just proof hard work and determination pays off,” Gower says. “I have run Boston three years now and qualified again at this year’s race. I tear up crossing the finish line every time, especially after the tragedy in 2012.”

She says her experience running marathons serves her well.

“You learn patience, perseverance, strength, passion, work ethic and dedication,” Gower says. “You are always in competition with yourself, not necessarily others. Just as in business, you don’t have your best run every day. There are days when you feel defeated and beat-up and drained of energy – but you learn from those days and keep training and striving for victory.”

She’s also a nine-year Bike MS veteran, having raised thousands of dollars on the 150-200-mile ride.

Gower dedicates energy to serving in the community. She completed the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce’s leadership academy in 2008, served on Hollister’s Emerging Leaders Task Force in 2011 and held board positions for the local YMCA and Rotary Club. Her committee involvement includes work with the Hollister Area Chamber of Commerce’s Grape and Fall Festival and the Ozarks Running Club, which organizes Branson Turkey Trot for charity.

Gower is current president of the Rotary Club of Hollister, and she’s influencing the culture of the group.

“For years, Rotary had primarily been a ‘men’s’ club,” she says. “I also take pride in that more than half of our members, and all but two of our officers, are women.”


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