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Economist and Professor Emerita at the Wharton School, Anita Arrow Summers (Photo from Knowledge at Wharton).

Anita Arrow Summers, a pioneering economist and Professor Emerita at the Wharton School, died at age 98 on Oct. 22, following a monthlong illness. 

Summers was known for her work in public policy, administration, and education. In 1979, she established the first public policy department within a business school in the United States at Wharton. 

Summers aimed to intertwine economic, mathematical, and political science principles with public sector initiatives, emphasizing the government's role in protecting vulnerable communities and ensuring capitalism's accountability. Summers chaired the Wharton public policy department from 1983 to 1988. 

After receiving her Master of Economics from the University of Chicago in 1947, Summers pursued her doctoral studies at Columbia University. In 1971, she took charge of the urban economics division at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, a role she held until 1979. 

Her innovative approach there championed the idea that Federal Reserve regional bank economists should focus on local and regional issues. 

“She pioneered the idea that Federal Reserve regional bank economists should work on local and regional issues,” her son, Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, said to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “She was very focused on making government more effective."

Her work at the Federal Reserve Bank prompted the institution to implement the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which compelled commercial banks to provide loans in underprivileged neighborhoods. Summers also championed efficiency in education, pushing for equitable financial spending in the sector.

Summers authored numerous books detailing the nuances of the real estate industry during her tenure as a senior research fellow at Wharton's Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center. Upon retiring, she served as Penn’s ombudsman from 2001 to 2003.

“She told me to do the right thing and do it as well and as passionately as you could, whether it was raising your children, teaching your students, advocating the policies you preferred, or trying to get legislation passed," Lawrence Summers said. "She set an example of doing everything one could as well as one could and living life to the fullest."

Anita is survived by her husband, fellow economist Robert Summers, and two other sons, John and Richard Summers. A memorial service was held on Oct. 25 at Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne, Pa.