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“He was revered here,” Boys’ Latin’s director of alumni relations said of Mr. Bowling.
“He was revered here,” Boys’ Latin’s director of alumni relations said of Mr. Bowling. (/HANDOUT)

John G. Bowling, who was the longest-serving classroom instructor in the history of Boys' Latin School and headed its debating society for 50 years, died Feb. 1 of an apparent heart attack at the Express Inn in Towson. He was 76.

Mr. Bowling had been living at the hotel while his Roland Park home was undergoing repairs, family members said.

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"Teaching here for 50 years meant that John impacted thousands of lives and was fully engaged in the life of the school. He was a model for what we're trying to do here," said headmaster Christopher J. Post.

"As Henry Adams wrote, 'A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.' That was John," he said.

"He was revered here," said J. McDonald "Mac" Kennedy, a former student of Mr. Bowling's, who graduated from Boys' Latin in 1976.

"John was a very private guy about his own life but one of the most curious guys that I've ever known. He had a memory like a steel trap," said Mr. Kennedy, who is the school's director of alumni relations.

"During his 51 years here, he taught 81 percent of our alumni," he said. "John went to every game, play and concert. His presence was everywhere, and everyone loved him."

Mr. Kennedy said Mr. Bowling was "outgoing" and "cared deeply for his students, [whom] he called 'his kids.' He'd ask them about their families, brothers and sisters, and 10 years later would still remember their answers."

"John wasn't married, so Boys' Latin was his life," said Dyson Ehrhardt, associate headmaster for development.

"He knew the kids more than we did as parents. He listened to them and was just a good listener. He was always there for them and did a super job," Mr. Ehrhardt said. "They were his No. 1 priority."

Mr. Kennedy said that "former students came back to BL just to see him."

The son of Frederick Thomas Bowling Jr., a government auditor, and Lucille McClanahan Bowling, a homemaker, John Gordian Bowling was born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park. He spent summers at his grandparents' farm in Hughesville.

While a student at Loyola High School, from which he graduated in 1958, Mr. Bowling excelled in academic work and was awarded a full scholarship to Boston College, family members said.

Mr. Bowling declined the scholarship, choosing instead to attend Fordham University in New York City, from which he graduated in 1962.

While at Fordham, Mr. Bowling developed a love of opera and classical music.

After graduating from college in 1962, he began his teaching career at Cardinal Gibbons High School.

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Jack Williams, who was then Boys' Latin's headmaster, lured Mr. Bowling to the private school, which had moved in the early 1960s from its campus on Brevard Street in Bolton Hill to West Lake Avenue in North Roland Park.

In 1966, Mr. Bowling commenced his 51-year career, during which he taught three generations of Boys' Latin students Latin, Greek, and ancient history and culture.

"Adolescent boys aren't necessarily interested in learning Latin, but John always made his classes come to life," Mr. Post said.

Mr. Bowling held other positions at the school, including head of the classics department for 37 years, director of the debating society for 50 years, head of senior speeches for 25 years, and director of the arts enrichment program for 25 years.

He also was a student adviser for 43 years and commencement speaker in 1997. His awards included the Hodges Cup in 1989, Honorary Alumni Award in 2010 and the J. Duncan Smith Faculty Chair Award in 2012.

Yearbooks from 1972, 2001 and 2009, were dedicated to Mr. Bowling, who was semiretired at his death. This year, Mr. Bowling was officially recognized at the Homecoming Alumni Luncheon.

"John Bowling fell in love with Boys' Latin and Boys' Latin fell in love with John Bowling," Mr. Kennedy wrote in the Boys' Latin Magazine in 2016.

"I never heard John once criticize, complain or bad-mouth about a student or teacher," Mr. Ehrhardt said. "He was always upfront. Just a great guy and a good person to be around."

Away from the Boys' Latin campus, Mr. Bowling, who enjoyed walking, was a familiar sight as he strode through Roland Park and Sherwood Gardens in Guilford.

He enjoyed going to Homewood Field to watch Johns Hopkins lacrosse games, and also attending Orioles and Ravens games, city festivals and fairs.

In later years, he enjoyed spending time in Charles Town and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.

"I remember first meeting him years ago at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where he was an usher," Mr. Kennedy said. "And if you went to any funeral in town, you'd see him. He knew so many people. I always said he was ubiquitous."

"What a tremendous example John Bowling has set for our faculty, and what a privilege it is to share in this work with colleagues who universally help our good boys grow to be great men," Mr. Post wrote in a 50-year tribute in the school magazine.

Mr. Bowling was a former member of the Marlborough Hunt Club, Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, Engineers Club, English-Speaking Union and the Maryland Historical Society.

A private memorial Mass will be offered for Mr. Bowling by his family. A memorial gathering will be held at 2 p.m. March 5 at Boys' Latin School, 822 W. Lake Ave.

He is survived by a brother, Robert Brooke Bowlingof Roland Park; a nephew and a niece; and several cousins.

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