Shouldering burdens and sharing joys

Hank Bowers changed students' lives through example
By Celeste "Cecil" Cobb Kelly ('73)

Originally published in Fall 2007, this is just one of many stories from Madison magazine's award-winning Professors You Love series, written by JMU students and alumni, about the professors that have made the most impact on their lives — then, and now.

Hank Bowers

Hank Bowers stepped out of the classroom and took an active role in the on-campus lives of Madison students. He advised the Interfraternity Student Council and worked in the student affairs division.

More than 35 years ago I stood anxiously with several other students in a Wilson Hall hallway. We, Madison College's newly elected Class of 1973 SGA class officers, were awaiting the arrival of our class adviser. We only knew his name was Henry C. "Hank" Bowers III and that he was the dean of men. While I may not remember much else about that night, I do know that meeting Dean Bowers marked a turning point in my life.

What I remember about Dean Bowers was his warmth and concern for students. His door was always open, and many students found their way to his office overlooking the Quad. Dean Bowers displayed a very real compassion for Madison students.

My time at Madison was during a time of great change. Among other things, the small predominantly women's college was focused on opportunities such as establishing its identity, hiring new administrators, enrolling more men, establishing fraternities and dealing with national unrest as well as the everyday successes and struggles that accompany college life.

During this time, Dean Bowers was there to help shoulder our burdens as well as share our joys.

After all these years, I can still recall the love Dean Bowers demonstrated for students and Madison. I was not in any of his classes, yet his everyday walk in life imparted valuable lessons to me. He demonstrated the importance of caring for others, and his example taught me to be more compassionate and giving.

Dean Bowers taught me to be myself and to stand up for what I believed was true. He challenged me to strive for more, to raise the bar of excellence. I came to better understand the values of honesty and integrity, yet his most important life lessons were those that taught me about faith.

The time and interest he invested so long ago created in me a desire to be a better person.

Dean Bowers' daily life spoke volumes, and I am sure that is as true today as it was more than 35 years ago.

His influence on my life has been deep reaching and long lasting. I want to share my sincere and deep appreciation to Dean Henry "Hank" Bowers for the difference he made in my life.

About the professor
Professor Emeritus of Education Henry "Hank" Bowers III served the Madison faculty from 1962 to 1972 as dean of men. He served Harrisonburg High School as assistant principal and then principal until 1978. Then, he returned to JMU to coordinate the secondary education program. He retired in 1992. Under Bowers' leadership, JMU created the clinical faculty program of the MidValley Consortium. In 1988, 21 cooperating teachers from Augusta County, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County schools participated in inaugural training sessions. The program has evolved to improving the quality of field experiences for students preparing to become teachers. The consortium has trained more than 650 teachers and continues to train approximately 100 clinical faculty members annually.

About the author
Celeste "Cecil" Cobb Kelly ('73) of Dothan, Ala., earned her B.S. in early childhood education, was a member of the social fraternity Phi Mu, and was active in both student government and the Honor Council. She earned her master's in education at Old Dominion University before moving to Dothan in 1988. Kelly spent 15 years as a K-3 teacher and later an administrator. She taught on the junior college level and worked as a supervisor for a child-care management agency before retiring to spend time with her husband. Her family includes two daughters, four stepchildren and seven stepgrandchildren.