Michelle Book Gowdy’s schedule could make her a stranger to the morning and evening rush hours.

“I’m not sure when I’m not at work and when I am. When you’re responsible for a community relations function, you’re on duty all the time,” she said. “When I go to the grocery store, I feel like I’m representing DuPont Pioneer in the vegetable aisle.”

For the last four years, Book Gowdy has served as DuPont Pioneer’s director of community and academic relations. Working for a company that rarely stops expanding, that means she is always on the go, spending a lot of time in airports.

Prior to joining the Johnston seed research and manufacturing giant, she worked for John Deere Finance.

“I shortened my commute by one traffic light,” she said.

Both companies keep a high profile in Greater Des Moines, and Book Gowdy delves into her community outreach mission with enthusiasm.

She is a founding member of the Central Iowa Business Volunteer Council, an initiative of United Way of Central Iowa. She reads to children as part of the Book Buddy Initiative of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Connection. She can’t turn down an invitation to meet and mentor young people.

“Her grandmother taught her to believe she was special and could do extraordinary things,” said United Way of Iowa President Mary Sellers. “She learned lessons of hard work and honesty from her father; believes she can do more and do better; she is tenacious and resilient.”

Book Gowdy is especially committed to helping young women pursue their career goals.

“We need that 50 percent of the population to be well-supported in their career success. … It is critical to our economic development,” she said.

She has a rigorous work ethic, learned from her family and from her first job.

“My first job was walking beans, and I would say that was the biggest break in my career,” Book Gowdy said.

When she has some time to herself, Book Gowdy spends it in the great outdoors.

“I love being outside. In the back of my car right now, you’ll find a bicycle and a yoga mat, a set of golf clubs and my hiking boots. That pretty much covers it. There’s really not time for much else,” she said.

She also finds time most Sundays to play a round of golf with her father, and she seizes every opportunity to spend some time with her grandson. 

“An afternoon with Jackson John Gowdy is probably the most peaceful afternoon of my week,” Book Gowdy said. “There’s something about spending time with a 4-year-old that is energizing, invigorating. He just has a joyful honest approach to life.”

Three areas of influence

She led the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s effort to secure a $3.5 million grant from DuPont Pioneer to help fund the center’s renovation and chairs its corporate capital campaign.

She is a member of Gov. Terry Branstad’s STEM Advisory Council.

She serves on the board of the Public Art Foundation.