Former BC Dean Succumbs to Cancer
After nearly three years of battling a rare soft tissue cancer, Bluefield College alumnus and former BC dean of students Dan Bowman has succumbed to the disease, passing away Thursday, January 23.
January 24, 2014
A native of Salem, Virginia, Bowman came to Bluefield College first as a student in the fall of 1990. During his four years as an undergraduate, he served as a resident advisor, an officer for the Student Government Association, and a member of Sigma Phi Omega fraternity. He also met his future wife, Staci Gilley (’94), and was well known for his generosity and service to others.
“When I was moving in, I met the most friendly upperclassman named Dan Bowman,” said alumnus Zach Roberts (’96) about his freshman year at BC. “I was blown away that a third-year guy could be so nice and willing to hang out. Dan was a great friend to me in those early years. He even gave me a ride to Salem to meet my dad so I could get home because my car was in the shop. From those memories alone, I can imagine that the kind, loving space Dan is leaving will be huge.”
Dan Bowman as a student, 1994.
Dan Bowman, 2013.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from BC in 1994, Bowman earned a master’s degree in counseling and human development from Radford (VA) University in 1996. He worked as a guidance coordinator for Northside (VA) Middle School, a guidance counselor at Jefferson Forest (VA) High School, director of guidance at Liberty (VA) High School, and guidance coordinator at William Byrd (VA) High School, before returning to his alma mater in 2001 to become the new dean of students.
“I feel blessed to have the wonderful opportunity to serve in this new capacity,” said Bowman in a statement about returning to BC in 2001. “I look forward with great anticipation to being a part of an outstanding college that is making a difference in the lives of students.”
And, make a difference for students is exactly what Bowman did. During his four years as dean of students at Bluefield College, he spearheaded three major renovation projects to benefit students, including new bathrooms, lighting and window treatments in the women’s residence hall; new window treatments in all the windows in the men’s residence hall; and improvements to the Student Activities Center, featuring new televisions, entertainment centers and decorations.
Under Bowman’s leadership, the college’s on-campus residential enrollment grew by 10 percent. Retention under “Dean Dan,” as students affectionately called him, averaged 85 percent. And, the disciplinary process for students improved thanks to Bowman’s new Values-Based Discipline Program.
“When I think back on my time at Bluefield College, I remember a few classes and parties, but what truly holds a place in my head and heart are the people who changed my life,” said alumnus Joey Giles (‘05). “We have lost one of those people. Dan Bowman was not only a fantastic dean of students, but also a man who always had an open door and an open heart. He loved his job, and he loved us as students.”
While dean, Bowman developed a business partnership with Cellular One that brought scholarship money to students at Bluefield College. During his tenure, the administration also realigned the Department of Athletics to fall under his supervision. In his final days with his alma mater, the BC dean of students won approval for a Tobacco-Free Policy on campus, banning the use of all tobacco campus-wide and strengthening the part of the school’s Purpose Statement that refers to healthy living.
“I hope that through my work here at Bluefield College I will be leaving the school in a better situation than it was when I came,” said Bowman prior to his departure in 2005. “Hopefully, and most importantly, I hope I’ve been able to touch some lives, and I hope that some of the projects we’ve accomplished will make the lives of students a little bit better here.”
And, touching lives and making circumstances a little bit better was Bowman’s mission no matter what road he traveled. After BC, he became an associate dean of students at Radford University, a move that allowed him to be closer to extended family in the Roanoke Valley, before becoming principal of Craig County (VA) High School in 2008.
Three years later in 2011, Bowman was diagnosed with myoepithelial carcinoma of the soft tissue, a cancer he battled valiantly for nearly three years while continuing to work and serve those around him. In fact, in the midst of his treatments, he continued to coach his daughters, Maddie and Libby, in recreational lacrosse. He also remained a member of the Virginia Tech “chain gang” that worked down markers for Hokies football games.
“He worried about everybody else and just put everybody else first,” said Jeanette Warwick, a colleague from Craig County Schools. “He had quite the battle, and that was for his girls and his wife and his mom and dad.”
Bowman retired from the school system in the fall of 2012 to focus on treating his cancer. He lost that battle the morning of January 23, 2014. He was 42 years old.
Two visitation services for Dean Dan will be at John M. Oakey and Son Funeral Home in Salem, Virginia, on Saturday, January 25 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, January 26 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. His funeral service will take place at Salem Baptist Church on Monday, January 27 at 2 p.m.