William G. Bowen, PhD '55

Dr. WIlliam G. Bowen '55Bill Bowen entered the Chapter Eternal on October 20, 2016. He was 83 years old.

Dr. William G. Bowen was a distinguished and influential educator who pressed elite colleges to give preference to poor and minority applicants, oversaw the first admission of women to Princeton University and expanded it academically. As its popular provost and then president, Dr. Bowen was credited with transforming Princeton from a predominantly white male preserve to a more diverse and inclusive institution. He served as member of the Denison Class of 1955, Life Trustee at Denison, former president of Princeton University, and former president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

William Gorden Bowen was born on Oct. 6, 1933, in Cincinnati, the son of Albert Bowen, a calculating-machine salesman, and the former Bernice Pomert.

Following graduation from Denison in 1955 with bachelor’s degree in economics, he went to Princeton where he was not, as he liked to recall, “traditional Princeton material.”

At Denison, he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and played championship tennis while an undergraduate. After receiving his doctorate at Princeton, the university hired him as an assistant professor and promoted him to full professor in 1965. From 1964 to 1966 he was director of graduate studies at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.

In 1998 Dr. Bowen received a Rolex Lifetime Achievement Award for college tennis athletes who later excelled in their career and life, and in 2008 he received the Josè Vasconcelos World Award of Education, bestowed upon him by the World Cultural Council.

A prolific writer, he authored 20 books, including a book released earlier this year, “Lesson Plan: An Agenda for Change in American Higher Education” (with Michael McPherson.

As president of Princeton he was successful in erasing a deficit and even generating a small surplus by identifying spending priorities and deciding what, in austere times, was superfluous.

Before leaving Mellon in 2006, Dr. Bowen was instrumental in creating global electronic archives of scholarly journals and artistic images, including JSTOR, ARTstor and also Ithaka, which provides digital services to academia.

In 2013, he received a 2012 National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama which noted “his contributions to the study of economics and his probing research on higher education in America. While his widely discussed publications have scrutinized the effects of policy, Dr. Bowen has used his leadership to put theories into practice and strive for new heights of academic excellence.”

He married Mary Ellen Maxwell, whom he had met when they were in the fourth grade. She survives him along with a daughter, Karen Bowen-Imhof; a son, David; and five grandchildren.

All honor to his name.

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