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Alumni Award Recipients James O. and Sylvia Kline Bowman

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James O. and Sylvia Kline Bowman
Class of 1957

2014 Ripples Society Medal Recipients

James O. and Sylvia Kline Bowman, both 1957 graduates of Bridgewater College, were brought up in the Church of the Brethren and are deeply appreciative of the Church’s heritage. In particular, they value the Brethren focus on nonviolence, peacebuilding, justice and global unity.

In recognition of their loyalty and affection for Bridgewater College, as well as their strong belief in these values, the Bowmans established the Kline-Bowman Endowment Fund for Creative Peacebuilding at Bridgewater. The endowment will promote programs, activities, academic work and internships advancing the ideals of peace, nonviolence and social justice, and protection of the earth’s environment. They hope this effort will cultivate these ethics in students as part of their broad education.

The endowment already has been used to initiate Peace Week in February 2013, which focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A highlight of the week was a visit and presentation by Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of the late Rachel Corrie. Corrie died in 2003 after being crushed by an armored bulldozer of the Israel Defense Forces as she engaged in non-violent protests of the Israeli army’s destruction of Palestinian homes. The event also featured the BC theater performance of the play “My Name is Rachel Corrie.” In 2014, the Peace Week theme focused on world hunger.

The Kline-Bowman endowment also has supported the Harrisonburg chapter of Agape-Satyagraha, an On Earth Peace leadership training program for youth, teaching skills for conflict resolution and social change based on the nonviolent teachings of Jesus and Ghandi.

Jim and Sylvia hope the endowment will someday be able to fund the creation of a Center for Creative Peacebuilding on campus, an endowed chair position in creative peacebuilding and the development of an academic major.

The couple’s connection with Bridgewater College spans three generations. Their parents, who also generously supported the College, were alumni, as were all of their brothers and sisters. All their children also graduated from Bridgewater —Carol Bowman Weaver ’81, Dale Owen Bowman ’84 and Lavonne Bowman Harner ’88.

The Kline Campus Center was built through the generosity of Sylvia’s extended family, who desired that it be dedicated to the memory of Elder John Kline, a 19th century leader in the Church of the Brethren.

Jim, who earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Purdue University, started his career in education as a high school mathematics teacher. He later became a high school counselor and administrator at several secondary schools in Fairfax County, Va. He also has been active in Church of the Brethren denominational activities, serving as a district representative to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Standing Committee for three years, and as a member of the Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees from 1995-2000. In his local community, Jim was a volunteer with the Prince William Hospital Auxiliary in the Surgical Service Department, and was a charter member of the Brethren Housing Corporation Board.

Sylvia taught first grade for a year after graduating from Bridgewater before taking several years off to be a full-time mother to the couple’s children. From 1972 to 1987, she worked with Prince William County Schools as a part-time secretary, most of the years as a secretary in an elementary school library. As a volunteer, she has served two terms as secretary of the BC Ripples Society, is a member of the John Kline Homestead Board of Directors, and is serving the Bridgewater Retirement Community Auxiliary as a gift shop volunteer, an occasional quilter and a “pal” to Bridgewater Home residents.

The Bowmans were longtime members of the Manassas Church of the Brethren until building a home in Bridgewater in 2001. They are now members of the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren. During their participation in both the Manassas and Bridgewater congregations, they have sung in the chancel choirs and served as deacons. Both have been Sunday school teachers and served on the church board. Jim was a strategic member of the Manassas Church building committee that directed the addition of an education and recreation building and a doubling of the size of the sanctuary.

The Bowmans support Bridgewater College because they believe in its mission of educating the whole person, an education that has shaped their own lives. They commented, “We feel that Bridgewater is a great place for youth to learn and prepare for life’s challenges. The College’s heritage supports the goal of producing leaders who will work toward creative and harmonious relationships in all areas of life.”