The School of Public Service honors H. Woods Bowman
By Pete Reinwald, School of Public Service
December 1, 2015 – Autumn 2015
The moment you arrived at the conference room entrance, you
saw him. You saw him with elbows on the table, with fingers interlocked but
relaxed — and with that kind, confident, unassuming smile that said, “I’ve got
something amusing and amazing on my mind.” It also said “I’m here.” The smile
graced a photo-poster that carried the title “In Memory of H. Woods Bowman.”
SPS students, faculty and staff, plus dignitaries from the
university, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, filled a conference
room at the Chicago Hilton in early November for a night of memories and
celebration of Woods Bowman, the SPS professor emeritus who in a July car crash
lost his life but not his legacy. “This is the inaugural H. Woods Bowman Annual
Lecture,” declared SPS assistant professor Adrienne Holloway as she introduced
Bowman, 73, taught in the School of Public Service from 1995
through his retirement in 2012. His professional career spanned parts of six
decades, beginning in the 1960s, and it also featured stints in politics,
finance, economics and the nonprofit industry.
An overflow crowd turned out to remember him and to learn
State representative Barbara Flynn Currie spoke. So did SPS
professor Joe Schwieterman and Northfield committeeman Michael Kreloff. They
represented Bowman’s broad connections to the world of teaching, politics,
government and service. “He left his mark on this institution,” Currie said. “He left an important legacy to the people of Illinois.”
Bowman’s wife, Michele Thompson, was among those who came to
hear tributes and stories that would endure. SPS director Robert Stokes gave a
heartfelt welcoming greeting. Many in the crowd would attend a memorial service
for Bowman about a week later at St. Vincent de Paul Church on the university’s
Lincoln Park campus.
The inaugural H. Woods Bowman Annual Lecture served more
than to remember a man who gave most of his life to public service. It showed
students, faculty and staff an example of a public servant who, in the spirit
of St. Vincent DePaul, transcended doing good. He did it well.
Bowman embodied that, Holloway told attendees. The brochure
agreed: “21st Annual School of Public Service Lecture. A Life Spent Leading by
Example. In honor of H. Woods Bowman.” “You can do it,” Currie told attendees. “And people like
Woody show you a way.”
Speakers shared stories of charity, honesty, advocacy and
integrity. Bowman led change and advancement as a professor in the School of
Public Service and as an expert in finance and economics in government,
including as a state representative and as Cook County finance chief.
Currie said Bowman stood up for the defenseless and
powerless, championing issues such as the environment, human rights, health,
education, social services and the poor and homeless. “Woody’s heart was in
human services,” she said. Yet he stayed true to his principles of fiscal
responsibility in government, Currie said, pointing out that Bowman advocated
as a state representative from 1976 to 1990 for a number of initiatives,
including a “rainy day” fund that would avoid implementation of new taxes.
“We’re continuing to work on creation of a rainy day fund,” Currie said.
Bowman joined DePaul in 1995 and wrote the draft of the
first mission statement of Management of Public Service program, which would
become the School of Public Service. He also wrote the program’s mission
statement, which remains intact, and played a role in creation of addition
degree programs, Schwieterman said. “He is really part of why you’re here
tonight,” he said. Schwieterman spoke of “walking with Woody,” a reference to
city tours that Bowman would give new and prospective faculty members. He spoke
of “Ask Woody” columns in Nonprofit Quarterly, in which Bowman would respond to
questions on ethics from readers. And he spoke of two long-time colleagues of
Woods — SPS assistant director Ron Fernandes and former SPS director Patrick
Murphy. “Please, when you get this degree, think of the people who came before
you,” Schwieterman said.
Kreloff pointed to
Bowman’s role as Cook County’s finance chief in the adoption of the county’s
first sales tax and in the construction of a hospital. Officials said at the
time that the sales tax, which exempted food and medicine, would fund urgent
county services and help avoid a dramatic rise in property taxes. “I knew him as a reformer, a visionary and a political
leader,” Kreloff said.
As part of the event, Holloway announced the induction of
SPS students Krista T. Kenney and Jennifer T. Liu into the Pi Alpha Alpha Honor
Society, which recognizes outstanding scholarship and accomplishment in public
affairs and administration. They no doubt left the inaugural H. Woods Bowman
Annual Lecture knowing what they needed to do and that they could do it. And
that they needed to do it well.
“As long as we carry on,” Kreloff said, “it keeps Woody