Goucher College President José Bowen will step down from his post at the end of the academic year, he announced in a letter to the university community Friday.
Bowen’s last day will be June 30, 2019, when he will cap off five years at the helm of the liberal arts college in Towson. He plans to turn his attention to research, teaching, music and finishing a book about his work at Goucher, he said in his letter to students, staff, faculty and alumni.
“The moments of teaching and playing with students at Goucher have been brief, but reminded me of how much I miss these interactions,” Bowen wrote. “I have given 100 percent of myself to Goucher and to other administrative work for 20 years, and now, while I still can, I simply need to return to the other things that bring me joy and meaning.”
Under Bowen’s tenure, Goucher replaced and relocated student housing, upgraded campus dining facilities, increased diversity among the student body and launched a $100 million capital campaign. The college has an endowment of about $200 million. In August the college announced plans to eliminate several major and minor programs, including math, physics and music, to cut costs and refine its academic offerings.
“I think the faculty are grateful for everything that he has given us over the past five years,” said Nina Kasniunas, associate professor of political science and faculty chair. “We recognize for him that it has been nonstop.”
Two of his projects — the building of a center for first-year housing and a new dining center — gave the campus a greater feeling of community, she said.
“It seems as though this was a natural time to transition out,” Kasniunas said. “I think generally the faculty were supportive. Any president will ruffle some feathers.”
Bowen began researching a book this summer, Kasniunas said, and is excited to continue work on it. He will not have a teaching position at Goucher, she said.
Ruth Lenrow, Goucher’s board chair, said in a statement that Bowen’s “vision and leadership have been greatly valued by the Board of Trustees and will be very sad to see him go.”
“We are grateful for what José has brought to Goucher — his inspiration, energy, creativity, and of course, his many, many accomplishments on behalf of our beloved college,” she said.
Bowen could not be reached for further comments Friday.
Some students were surprised to learn of Bowen’s plans to leave the university at a time when initiatives he piloted were still unfolding.
“There’s lot of things happening on campus and a lot of things kind of came out of his leadership and his ideas,” said sophomore Sam Anderson, acting president of the Goucher Student Government, pointing to measures like the college’s new curriculum. “It’s just been unveiled … so people haven’t really seen the success or failure of that.”
Brandon Rodriguez, 19, was upset to hear Bowen was stepping down. The sophomore business management major said Bowen was part of what drew him to Goucher.
“I feel like I really connect to José in some ways in that he was a first-generation college student and I am a first-generation college student,” he said. “I really liked how personable he was.”
Bowen, who interacts with many students on a first-name basis, has a constant and casual presence on campus — he’s often dressed in T-shirts, participates in jam sessions with students and lets students walk his dogs.
“I hope to see someone as engaged as José is, someone who basically is always on campus,” Rodriguez said.
The college will appoint a search committee to choose its next president. Anderson said the student government is working with faculty to ensure several students are part of that group.