Robert E. Bowers
An alumnus, former parent, and chairman of the Governing Board, Robert E. (Bobby) Bowers ’74 has deep connections to Woodward Academy and has demonstrated his devotion to the school over many years. Mr. Bowers believes that leadership is founded in a servant spirit or attitude—and that a fulfilling life is best achieved by devotion to others.
Tell us about your history with Woodward Academy.
Mr. Bowers: Like many people my age, both my parents were products of the Depression and World War II. They valued education, and today I appreciate how much they sacrificed to provide the best education possible for their children. My father was active in the Naval Reserves, and he became friends with fellow reservists including former Woodward President Capt. Bill Brewster and several teachers, resulting in the enrollment of my sister Nan, little brother Tommy, and myself, when I was in 10th grade. Frankly, Woodward was never easy academically. Aristotle’s quote, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet,” is so true for me. For example, although I had received an “A” in my Latin I class back in my hometown of Elberton, I received a “D” in the first six weeks of Latin II with the legendary teacher Maj. Abe Ferguson. But, his faith in me helped me bring my grade up to an “A” by winter break. To this day, I have fond memories of compassionate, student-centered teaching professionals including Maj. Ferguson, my beloved English teacher Cleo Hudson, and Chuck Hixon, among others. They taught me, first and foremost, how to study, and then reinforced in me how to present clearly and write effectively and persuasively.
“As the largest private school in the continental United States, we will advance a vision of Woodward being the national model for a college-preparatory education, one to which all others will be compared.”
I had similar experiences athletically. I was the youngest in my class and a “late bloomer,” growing six inches in the ninth grade and almost five more by the 11th grade. In my pre-adolescent years, I always had the best seat for any game, down front on the team bench. But with the same patience and confidence as my classroom teachers, Coaches Graham Hixon and Johnny Stallings gave me a chance, and, ultimately, I had the good fortune of wrestling for one of the best programs in the southeastern U.S. and playing for the first undefeated regular season football team in Woodward history. Coaches Hixon and Stallings taught me to endure, and they instilled a lifelong lesson that has been so valuable to me—that the team that is best prepared, disciplined, and willing to work together usually wins.
Woodward has remained an important part of my life. After I graduated from Auburn, I came back to Atlanta and started my career as a CPA. When I married my wife, Cindy, she was teaching in the Woodward Middle School and, later, she worked as an instructional aide at Woodward North. Of course, we chose Woodward for our three sons, who are Vintage Eagles.
Tell us about your sons’ Woodward experiences.
Our sons were all good students, yet all three are quite different in personality and talents. One son loved baseball and football and found his self-confidence, determination, and leadership skills athletically. Another son absolutely excelled in the classroom, where he gained the self-esteem to chart his own path to success and not simply follow others. Our third son is so creative artistically, and Woodward had just the right teachers to encourage and nurture his talents and confidence. Today, we are blessed to have a doctor, an engineer, and an architect as sons, all with solid Woodward educations. But they are, most importantly, good people, with values that the Academy reinforced every day. It is one thing to teach a child to count, but far more difficult and important to teach them what counts.
You have served for many years for organizations such as Southwest Christian Hospice, Hope House, Daybreak, and PURE Ministries. Why have you chosen to serve these organizations?
I was blessed to grow up with giving parents and grandparents. I witnessed them all living up to what they believed in their hearts. I saw my dad working in a Thanksgiving soup kitchen, working at summer youth camps, taking Scouts camping, serving as a deacon in church, and faithfully tending to his ailing parents for many years. Mom was always taking food to poor rural families living near our hometown, putting the flowers out each Sunday in church, and visiting her students at their homes when they were sick or had family crises. I fondly remember my grandmother telling me with a twinkle in her eye that she was taking a huge banana pudding to some of her sick, elderly friends. She herself was already 85 years old. All my life I have been blessed with so many loving examples, and I can only hope to pass on a small portion of their good to those around me.
Their examples and God’s goodness to me have allowed me to work with several wonderful organizations, such as Southwest Christian Care in Union City, which provides hospice care for no fee, a medically-fragile children’s respite, and an elderly daycare facility for adults in the early stages of dementia. Another organization, Pure Ministries, works with families with disabled children. I enjoy being around young people with their enthusiasm and passion for the future, which has led me to work with several campus ministries at Auburn and Georgia Tech. Often in community service work, I cross paths with fellow members of the Woodward family, a natural result of the emphasis our Woodward families and the school place on service to others. Woodward graduates know that selfless activity is the best thing you can do for yourself, and they often measure their efforts, satisfaction and contentment by how much good they have done for others.
What is your vision for Woodward Academy?
As we look ahead, I believe we should first begin by being thankful for the Academy’s past visionary leadership including Captain Brewster, Joe Jones, Jimmy Colquitt, Michael Carlos, and Ben Johnson, all of whom have successfully steered our school through many challenges, helping to create one of the premier college-preparatory schools in the nation today and leaving us with a solid foundation for the future. We have much to be proud of, including wonderful facilities, an exemplary, diverse enrollment, and an exceptionally talented faculty. Our ongoing responsibility is to educate and prepare our students for the future by giving them the best possible education in every sense of the word. I believe we also share a common responsibility as Governing Board members, parents, faculty and staff, and students to continue to be a school that is reflective of our world—one that embraces diversity of students to the fullest extent. We will continue to offer a relevant curriculum for all so that every child in a family can attend Woodward, and all students can be challenged and grow to their fullest potential. At each graduation, we will proudly send our students to colleges that best suit each student’s ambitions and capabilities, from Ivy League universities to other fine schools around the country. Woodward will prepare a varied group of civic-minded, talented, ambitious, and ethical problem-solvers who will positively impact their communities, and, hopefully, the world. As the largest private school in the continental United States, we will advance a vision of Woodward being the national model for a college-preparatory education, one to which all others will be compared. Although our goals are lofty, I have every confidence in the board, Dr. Gulley’s leadership and the talented faculty and staff at Woodward Academy. I believe we have the right team in place. This is an undertaking that no one individual can achieve, but with the dedication of the entire community, all of this is possible.