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Longtime professor packs up colorful office

January 8, 2015


Dr-Michael_BowlingDr. Michael Bowling, standing amidst boxed-up books and nearly empty cabinets, points to a pro-feminism bumper sticker pinned to a bulletin board.

“Do you want it?” he asks, then happily takes it down following an enthusiastic “yes.”

Book by book, artifact by artifact, one bumper sticker at a time, Bowling is divvying up nearly four decades worth of stuff as he prepares to vacate his office in the Pillsbury Science Center.

He retired in 2012 but has been a regular fixture on campus while slowly moving out of his longtime office—trying to find proper departments and offices to pass along the historical books, documents and other materials in his possession.

Since joining the mathematics department in 1978, Bowling has made quite a mark at Stephens. He served in numerous faculty and administrative positions; on committees—he was the first man elected to the Women’s Studies Advisory Board; and has received many honors, including the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1996. A popular adviser among students, today the College gives out the annual Dr. Michael Bowling Distinguished Advising Award in his honor.

Last month, as Bowling was cleaning out the final drawers and sifting through the last of the documents, he lamented the fact that some of his more unusual recognition will likely be painted over: the colorful walls and ceiling tiles in his office.

It all started in the fall of 1999 when facility crews painted the science hallway. Someone asked him what he thought of the fresh paint job. It’s nice, he remembers saying, but still “dull, institutional beige.”

Two days later, one of the concrete walls in his office had been painted purple.

And the seniors in his class that year got in on the joke. Before leaving Stephens, they snuck into his office and filled in the lines between the purple concrete blocks with a bright green paint—adding a green block on the opposite wall complete with their signatures and class year. Future classes followed suit, adding their own colored blocks and signature touches. The Class of 2001 added orange flowers to the purple-and-green wall. Next came pink stems—and a pink-themed adjoining wall courtesy of the 2002 graduates. Those graduating in 2005 got really clever and painted the ceiling tile blue. Later, classes added decorative touches to the interior windows.

Bowling had the colorful walls photographed before leaving, knowing that whoever occupies the office after him will, no doubt, want a new paint job.

He’s not too sentimental about moving on, though. Bowling and his wife, Markita Price (who taught at Stephens from 1979 to 2000), have been enjoying their time off. They’ve recently traveled to Wales, Prague, Scotland, Ireland, Greece and Vienna, and are looking forward to future travels abroad. They also spend a lot of time in Oregon where they visit family, including two grandchildren.

“We’re enjoying retirement,” he said. “Although I don’t plan on being completely absent from campus as I have a few treasured ex-colleagues to visit from time to time.”

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