For the past 81 years, John Bowman ‘60 (M.A. ‘73) has seldom experienced a dull moment. For proof, just ask this well-spoken, well-read man about the details of his well-worn life.
Don’t be taken aback by his demeanor: He’s gruff, speaks his mind without a filter and thrives on making a lasting impression on everyone he meets. He was the class clown in school and didn’t finish 11th grade (“I wasn’t dumb, I just didn’t like it”), but he’s also lived most of his life without really knowing his parents, who died before he turned age 5. He’s a World War II Army Air Force veteran, but freely admits he wasn’t a model soldier (“I had a big mouth”).
Bowman’s varied life experiences — some good, many more bad — haven’t just shaped him, they’ve served as tools to teach others. He cherishes his 51-year marriage to wife Marion and being a good father to his four children. He is a cancer survivor. Bowman’s 36-year teaching career consisted of stints at Ramona and St. Augustine high schools and as a professor at Palomar College. He relishes seeing former students who fondly label him as their favorite teacher when he taught English or drama or coached sports.
Another passion is his college student experience from 1956 to 1960. Even now, nearly 48 years after receiving a bachelor’s degree in English, San Diego’s College for Men holds a permanent place in his heart.
“The College for Men opened my eyes to what was around me, what was available to me as a human being. I was bright, but I did not realize what it could mean for me until I got into that school,” says Bowman, who was 28 when he started at the institution that later merged with the San Diego College for Women to become the University of San Diego.
Bowman gained admission into the institution based on two recommendations and the encouragement of Irving Parker, who was the College for Men’s dean of admissions. Parker offered Bowman a chance to attend college, but only if he kept his grades up. Bowman failed two classes his first semester and Parker reminded him of their agreement. Parker, however, gave Bowman a second chance because of two A grades in English and a B in American History.
“Had it not been for Dean Parker’s faith in me, I would perhaps be mired still in that infernal swamp of failures fruitlessly seeking a means of escape,” says Bowman, who spoke at a recent memorial Mass inside Founders Chapel for Parker, who passed away in November. “Whatever success I have enjoyed during those 51 years since that late summer of 1956, I owe to the man we pray for today. Irving Parker was not only my benefactor and teacher, but he was also my inspiration.”
Bowman, who took classes at San Diego City College to build academic confidence, arrived on the College for Men campus the year the school fielded its first football team. He still says he earned both his degrees from the San Diego College for Men. It’s a source of pride. It’s his way to ensure that the College for Men’s contributions are not forgotten.
“We had excellent faculty. They knew most of us weren’t well-educated in the lower grades, and they took time with us and they explained things we couldn’t figure out,” Bowman says. “The faculty and the students were just one group. We were bonded together. Many of us were married and trying to make a living. It was a common need for all of us to get an education. Out of this group came teachers, lawyers, judges and professional businessmen, and all of it came out of this little school located across the street.”
College for Men alumni are encouraged to stay connected with the university. Share your story by contacting Alumni Relations at (619) 260-4819.