Watson Chronicle


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Glenda Bowen Celebrates 30 Years at WCE

Friday, January 02, 2015

Glenda Bowen

It’s often said that success can be measured by the positive impact we have on others. By this standard, Glenda Bowen has had an extraordinary career at the Watson College.

Bowen, who recently reached a milestone of 30 years of service to the college, began her career at Watson in the 1980s as a part-time clerk typist. At the time, the education school was located in King Hall, Roy Harkin was dean and WCE was comprised of 30 faculty members and four support staff. Glenda’s first job was in Student Services, where she managed field placements, internships, certification, professional testing and student advising.

Arriving on campus her very first day, she was surprised to see tents set up outside of Trask Coliseum. She soon learned that UNCW students were camping out overnight to get an early place in line for course registration, the way some people still camp out overnight for a shot at the best deals on Black Friday.

“That’s how we did registration back then,” Bowen said. “All the departments set up tables and handed out cards. The process took days.”

The Watson College has changed significantly over the years, but faculty and students say Bowen’s positive outlook and commitment to helping others hasn’t.

"Glenda and I both began our careers in the School of Education in 1983," stated Carol Chase Thomas, who served as associate dean for academic programs for 15 years prior to her retirement in 2011.

"From the beginning, I was impressed by Glenda's caring approach, her enthusiasm for the job and her commitment to students and faculty. We experienced a number of changes in programs and administration through the years, but Glenda's good nature never wavered,” Thomas said. “Whether it was the wildness of drop/add before the era of computers or the challenges of coordinating big events like accreditation, we could count on her organizational skills and that she would always pitch in 100% to ensure everything went well."

Teaching Fellows, the Professional Development System (PDS) and the Razor Walker Awards are a few of the legacy programs Bowen helped to launch.

When Teaching Fellows was introduced at UNCW in 1987, Bowen served as student advisor. In 1990, when the Consortium for the Advancement of Public Education (CAPE) and the Model Clinical Teacher Program were introduced, she managed student field placements. In 1993, she helped launch WCE’s PDS, a program that has grown to include 12 school districts, 147 schools and more than 2,200 teachers.

Bowen still remembers the day former dean Robert Tyndall asked her to run to the gas station to pick up a pack of razor blades with double edges.

“He used those blades to draw a picture of a man on a razor,” she said. “His vision was to create an award to recognize people who take risks to help children.” The hand-sketched drawing became a graphic that has been used ever since to promote the prestigious Razor Walker Awards, now in its 23rd year.

Bowen is currently executive assistant to Ann Potts, associate dean of the Office of Teacher Education and Outreach. Potts said Bowen’s knowledge and experience are invaluable to the Watson College, where “she’s recognized as the go-to person for many questions.” Potts cited WCE’s recent successful NCATE reaccreditation review as an example of Bowen’s outstanding contributions.

“Glenda provided support above and beyond her duties,” Potts said. “She has a wealth of knowledge about previous accreditation visits. She helped us prepare for the review and was able to coordinate all aspects of the site visit by the national team of reviewing professors.”

Bowen received a 2014 Kudos Award from Human Resources for exemplary service to the college related to the NCATE reaccreditation.

Bowen enjoys her work in administration, but says part of her heart will always remain with the students.

“When former students who now have successful careers still remember me and give me a hug it feels so good,” she said.

Bowen’s former students include Brian Brinkley, director of WCE’s Ed Lab, who was one of the first interns she advised when the program was established in partnership with Brunswick and Duplin counties two decades ago. Others include Al O’Briant, principal at Laney High School and his wife Kimberly, staff development supervisor at New Hanover County Schools.

When contacted with a request for a comment, Principal O’Briant responded immediately saying, “Anything for Glenda!”

In a joint statement, the O’Briants described Bowen as a “guardian angel for students.”

“During our time at UNCW, Glenda was a constant, positive role model for many students. If she was having a bad day, you would never know it,” the O’Briants wrote. “She was always available to help students and she was always professional and a real pleasure to interact with in any situation. She was always willing to assist students and never expected anything in return. We will always be grateful for the kindness that she showed to us and others. Thanks Glenda!”

Bowen is still surprised to learn she had such an impact on students, she said. “I didn’t think about that then; I was just focused on doing my job.”

When she began work at the college, Bowen wasn’t much older than the students, but she had two young children who gave her a frame of reference. She said she thought about how she would want her children to be treated. 

“I would want them to feel welcome, to feel nurtured, so that’s what I tried to do. I listened to the students and they trusted me,” Bowen said.  “No matter what the issues were, I always wanted students to leave my office with a smile on their face.”

Bowen, who has lived in Bladen County most of her life, drives to the UNCW campus every day. It used to take 45 minutes each way, but now with traffic, it’s an hour and a half. Asked why she never moved or found a job closer to home, she said, “My husband was my childhood sweetheart, and my family is in Bladen County. They’re my support system and my second family is here. I have known so many great people at the university who have had a positive impact on my life and the lives of so many others.”

Faculty and staff say Bowen helped create the family culture that draws many to the college.

"We have all been blessed by Glenda's concern for us and our lives have been enriched by her smile and her infectious laugh,” Chase Thomas said.