Family history traces to the Class of 1918, and almost every decade since has seen a relative—or three—cross The Dell to earn Blue Jay diplomas. For the Bowerses, E-town truly is a family affair.
From Ken’s uncle John Harold Herr ’18 and his mother, M. Elizabeth Herr Bowers ’24, familial connections are abundant—sisters, brothers, nieces, cousins and, of course, spouses. Rosalie and Ken met at Elizabethtown in the late 1950s.
These profound connections are part of what inspired the couple to contribute $5 million to the College’s BE Inspired campaign in spring 2017 for support of a significant campus addition. The Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Wellness breaks ground in early 2018, and completion is scheduled for spring/summer 2019.
The more-than-78,000-square-foot facility will house group fitness studios; cardio, strength, conditioning training and athletic treatment areas; a track, café and spin studio; meeting, gathering and office spaces and classrooms.
“As a couple who has a long history with the College as students, employees, trustee and financial contributors, we were impressed with the proposal presented to us,” Ken said of the Center. “It’s a combination of so many features, including the mission of Educate for Service.”
“What draws us back to the college?… A combination of good experiences as students [and] meaningful involvements over many years.”
The Bowerses are giving back to E-town, just as the College gave to them. Ken ’59 caught his first glimpse of Rosalie ’58 in front of Alpha Hall on the very spot now occupied by the iconic J.G. Francis statue. “We were friends first,” Ken said of their several-years-in-the-making romance. He shared the story of inviting Rosalie to ride along while he picked up a classmate, Kent Replogle ’59, at the train station. “It was the first time we were alone together,” remembered Rosalie.
In 1960, after both graduated and began teaching, they were married.
Rosalie taught English and Spanish at York Suburban and, then, Lower Dauphin High School; Ken taught English and journalism at Hershey High. He also attended grad school in the summer, earning his master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University’s School of Journalism.
In 1961, Ken returned to E-town, working in public relations while also teaching journalism. Though he modestly diverts credit to students, Ken played an important role in launching WWEC, the College radio station, in 1964.
The College called to Rosalie, too. She returned as a Spanish teacher and faculty/library liaison. “I worked with reserves and reference books,” she said, noting that she’d subsequently earned her master’s degree in library science at Drexel University.
The couple moved to New York in 1967 when Ken took a public relations position with AT&T. Rosalie was a librarian with the former Upsala College in New Jersey, a campus she said felt much like Elizabethtown.
That familiarity might have contributed to the couple’s ultimate return to the area. Considering his commute to Manhattan each day, Ken realized the big city wasn’t for him. “I grew up in a small town, small school, small college,” he said.
So, in May 1970, while Rosalie completed the academic year in New Jersey, Ken started work with Hershey Foods, coordinating communications, media and customer affairs. “We were one of the first in the industry to have an 800 number on our packaging for questions and concerns about the product,” he said, proudly
Twenty-three years later, Ken retired as vice president of Hershey’s corporate communications; Rosalie retired in 1993, too, as assistant corporate secretary with Pennsylvania Blue Shield.
Through the years, their alma mater was never far from sight.
“When Gail and I came to E-town, we quickly learned how special Ken and Rosalie were,” said College President Carl Strikwerda. “They immediately invited us over to a gathering of ‘The Gang,’ a group of their E-town alumni and friends who have shared their lives for almost 60 years. They welcomed us like old friends and soon made us exactly that.
“Rosalie and Ken have been models of E-town loyalty for two generations of the Elizabethtown family,” Strikwerda said. Ken served on the board of trustees for 25 years, three as chairman, and earned two Educate for Service awards. In 1999, the College honored him with a doctor of commercial science degree, honoris causa, and, in 2008, he earned emeritus status. Last year, Rosalie earned an Educate for Service—Service to the College award.
“In a spectacular way, Ken and Rosalie embody the spirit of Elizabethtown College,” said David Beidleman, vice president for institutional advancement and community relations. “Notably, they have held, over the years, deep College friendships and offered keen leadership and a resounding belief and support of our College’s mission.
In fall 2009 Ken and Rosalie funded the College’s Bowers Writers House. “It was the kind of mission we wanted to support,” Ken said. “It could provide a unique, smaller-group environment for interplay with guest speakers, lecturers and others that you don’t get in a large classroom or lecture hall.”
Last year, when Ken and Rosalie were invited to support the sports, fitness and wellness center, they happily accepted, said Rosalie. “We were impressed by the wide variety of activities and facilities and social activities. It seems to encompass the interests of the whole campus.”