On October 30, the Erikson community celebrated co-founder and professor Barbara T. Bowman’s 90th birthday. Taking place in the Polk Bros. Lecture Hall at Erikson Institute, the birthday gathering included a brief program and champagne toast. President and CEO Geoff Nagle welcomed over 100 attendees, including Erikson faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni.
Members of the Erikson community gave birthday well wishes, including Professor Gillian McNamee, Deborah Rogers-Jaye, MS ’04, and Associate Director of Admission and Multicultural Student Affairs Valerie Williams. Professor McNamee described Bowman’s contributions to the Erikson community through her ability to create a sense of home at the Institute, noting that Erikson’s commencement ceremony was held in her backyard for over three decades. While Erikson has outgrown Bowman’s backyard, the yellow rose ceremony continues as a beloved tradition and nod to Bowman and Erikson’s early years.
In 1994, Williams began working at Erikson while Bowman was president. A new employee, she was impressed with how “approachable” and open Bowman was with her, laying the foundation for a long mentoring relationship and friendship. Describing Bowman as “a living icon in the field,” Williams praised her authenticity, candor, and leadership. Alumna Rogers-Jaye spoke to Bowman’s high expectations as a professor and advisor, to which many alumni in the audience nodded in agreement. Both Williams and Rogers-Jaye emphasized Bowman’s strength in living Erikson’s core value of recognizing the centrality of relationships in all learning.
At the conclusion of these heartfelt speeches, Bowman remarked, “In many ways, Erikson has been my whole life.” As the many stories of Bowman’s mentoring and guidance attest, her influence on Erikson, our alumni, and the field of early childhood will live far beyond her 90 years.
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