<< Back

The fourth president of Indiana Asbury University was Thomas Bowman. Born in Berwick, Pa. in 1817, he was a member of the first graduating class of Methodist Dickinson College in 1837. He remained at Dickinson for a year studying law, then did some preaching and teaching in an elementary school related to the college. For a while he managed the family farm and flour mill and then for 10 years was principal of Dickinson Seminary (now Lycoming College). He became president of Indiana Asbury in 1858 just as he was about to begin a pastorate in Lewisburg, Pa. At the time of his appointment, Bowman was characterized this way:



He is graceful enough to be a courtier, simple enough for a Puritan, frank enough for a child, grave as a judge, and pleasant as a woman. His common sense and conciliatory spirit will probably keep him by still waters and in pretty good pastures.

His simplicity, unpretentiousness, and sincerity would help to sustain Bowman through his long tenure in the presidency from 1858 to 1872, including the difficult Civil War years. From May 1864 to March 1865 he also served as chaplain of the United States Senate. After the war Bowman presided with dignity over such important university events as the admission of women students and the initial planning and the laying of the cornerstone of East College. In his DePauw Through the Years, George Manhart wrote:



In the classroom, Bowman was said to be `hailed with delight,' as he made `everything as clear as a sunbeam.' He seemed to speak equally well before university students, children, or the United States Senate. He was especially popular as speaker at the dedication of churches, on which occasions he was highly `successful in raising money, having opened the hearts of his hearers until he has free access to their pockets: ...Of President Bowman as a disciplinarian, one of his students wrote that he had a `firm but sweet, kind way of controlling.'

Bowman had made a reputation for himself in Methodist circles, and in 1872 at the General Conference he was elected bishop on the first ballot, with the largest vote cast to that time. Bowman continued his interest in Indiana Asbury by serving on its board of trustees, including a term as president from 1887 to 1895. He was also a special lecturer in the School of Theology. He received the largely honorific title of chancellor in 1884 and after 1899 became chancellor emeritus, without duties or salary. As bishop, Bowman traveled to England, Europe, and the Far East and presided over conferences in every state and territory of the United States, as well as in some foreign countries. After 24 years in the episcopacy he retired from active duties in 1896 and lived in retirement until his death in 1914, aged 96. He had eight sons and three daughters, one of whom, Sallie Bowman Caldwell, provided the organ in Meharry Hall and a large part of the funds for the construction of the gymnasium named after her father. Today President Bowman's memory is preserved in the pleasant and dignified park newly created on the south campus.

Back to Top

<< Back

Depauw University e-history | E-mail comments to: archives@depauw.edu


People, Events & Traditions

Cyrus Nutt

The Edifice

Tommy Goodwin

Matthew Simpson

John W. Ray

William C. Larrabee

Rebellion of 1856- 57

Literary Societies

Thomas Bowman

The Civil War

Joseph Tingley

Alexander Martin

The Edifice Fire

Bettie Locke (Hamilton)

East College

Japanese Students