When first entering the home of José and Kimberly Bowen at Goucher College, guests immediately encounter a massive portrait by artist Grace Hartigan. The canvas, a painting of a man from the chest up, covers an entire wall in the Bowen’s living room. The artwork is striking – the man in the painting wears a vermillion shade of red that overwhelms the piece. It is difficult to not stare back at the immense canvas.
Kimberly Bowen says the painting by Hartigan is one of her favorites in Goucher’s collection. “Some people said, ‘I don’t know about that,’” says Kimberly. “‘You come in the door and its just staring at you’ and I like that kind of sense of drama and mystery.” The 6th generation Texas native has a lifelong interest in the arts. While living in Dallas, Kimberly was involved in the arts community while José was serving as Dean to the School of Arts at Southern Methodist University.
For 24 years, Kimberly worked in the industrial and aerospace industry, selling and dealing with aerospace and industrial adhesives and sealants for manufacturing. Originally, after graduating from North Lake College outside of Dallas, TX, Kimberly planned on staying at this job for one summer. Associating herself more closely with fashion and the arts, Kimberly assumed she would work in a field related to these passions.
In the late 1980s, Kimberly quickly recognized the challenges of a woman working in a male dominated field. But as a sister to two younger brothers, she was excited rather than deterred by this opportunity. “I am always up for a challenge,” says Kimberly. “I was always wanting to push myself and push the boundaries of the societal norms of what people perceived of [women in business].”
Kimberly discovered how manufacturing, in its own right, is a bountiful art form. She found a merger between the arts and her business background. “In an industrial way, [manufacturing] is an art form for me,” notes Kimberly. “[As people,] we see something and we think, ‘Wow, that’s nice,’ but we are just looking at one element of it– we’re looking at the finished product. I was much more interested in knowing the process of how it started out and how it evolved into, let’s say, a couch or, in my case, a jet.” At Goucher, she will be able to advantageously use her ability to examine a whole as more than a sum of its parts.
Kimberly is passionate about getting involved with student groups, like the animal rights activism organization on campus. She expresses an interest in increasing the accessibility of art on the campus, hopefully creating the more supportive artistic community some students are looking for. Still, she recognizes a need for balance between her personal activism and accomplishing tasks for the college. Kimberly has recognized the importance of having a visible senior staff, including herself and José in this group. “I think immersing ourselves in the culture of the college is really beneficial to everyone,” she says. “Including us.”
Since Goucher is a small campus, the Bowens’ presence is recognized and apparent. When accepting the job at Goucher College, Kimberly notes that she and José made the conscious decision to live on Goucher’s campus, as opposed to in a surrounding area. “I think it’s important to everything that Goucher stands for,” she says, “for there to be a presence here on campus. I don’t think this is the kind of job that you could do and then at 5 o’clock you get in your car and you drive home.”
While Kimberly is not an employee of Goucher, she wants to be involved on campus. She has visited with various departments around campus. While José conducted forum discussions with faculty and staff, Kimberly visited with Facilities Management Services, Housekeeping, Public Safety, the Health and Counseling Center – all offices at Goucher College that keep the school functioning. She wanted to let these offices know she is here and if they need anything, they can look to her for support.
Senior Goucher student Joey Fink has taken advantage of this new presence at Goucher with a sense of curiosity to learn how Kimberly can facilitate the college’s growth. Fink first met Kimberly Bowen as the student representative for the Presidential Search Committee in 2013, but he got to know Bowen more informally at a Goucher College Hillel event. “She kind of talked about what she was up to and doing,” says Fink. Kimberly Bowen’s email address is in the student email database, making her more accessible than some students perceive; however, many students haven’t yet taken the initiative. “Anyone could meet with her and talk to her and get to know her more,” say Fink.
Since students are not yet clear of Kimberly Bowen’s role, it is possible they do not know which matters are appropriate to bring to her attention. “This is, kind of, the first time we have someone to fill this role,” says Fink, “because we’ve never really had an entirely involved spouse of a college president.” After meeting with her, Fink became more aware of what she has been accomplishing since her arrival and was able to learn more about her background.
Fink expressed excitement for the future opportunities Kimberly Bowen may incite at Goucher. Fink noted that she has a unique opportunity to create a role for herself, to write her own job description. Based on her success in business, Fink expresses interest in Kimberly becoming more involved with business students at Goucher, to share her successes and experiences working for a large organization.
Kimberly is enthusiastic about future growth at the college and the evolution of her role within the Goucher community, expressing her interests in creating a greater tie to the history of the school to continue its already abundant legacy. As for accomplishing these future goals for the college, whether they are intended for students, faculty, or staff, she says, “I really do believe it is going to take everyone, coming together, to make this place even better than it already is.”