Thomas Bowman, 1858-1872
DePauw's Fourth President
The fourth president of Indiana Asbury University was Thomas Bowman. Born in Berwick, Pa. in 1817, he was a member of the first graduating class of the Methodist-founded Dickinson College. His simplicity, unpretentiousness, and sincerity would help to sustain Bowman through his long tenure in the presidency from 1858 to 1872, including the difficult Civil War years. From May 1864 to March 1865 he also served as chaplain of the United States Senate. After the war Bowman presided with dignity over such important university events as the admission of women students and the initial planning and the laying of the cornerstone of East College.
In his DePauw Through the Years, George Manhart wrote: In the classroom, Bowman was said to be 'hailed with delight,' as he made 'everything as clear as a sunbeam' He seemed to speak equally well before university students, children, or the United States Senate. He was especially popular as speaker at the dedication of churches, on which occasions he was highly `successful in raising money, having opened the hearts of his hearers until he has free access to their pockets.' … Of President Bowman as a disciplinarian, one of his students wrote that he had a `firm but sweet, kind way of controlling.'
Bowman had made a reputation for himself in Methodist circles, and in 1872 at the General Conference he was elected bishop on the first ballot, with the largest vote cast to that time. Bowman continued his interest in Indiana Asbury by serving on its board of trustees, including a term as president from 1887 to 1895.