Bob BowserBob Bowser (BA, 1961)

Originally from Illinois, Bob Bowser came to the University of Florida in 1952. Now retired after a lengthy career as an educator and founder of a transformative dropout recovery program in California, Bob remembers UF as the place where it all began. Reflecting back on his life and career, he describes his classes in the English Department as the “catalyzing experiences that opened me up to the world.” He recalls that, “U. of F. was an intellectual and spiritual cornucopia for me. When you major in literature, you minor in just about everything else.” Among the many intellectual interests Bob developed and continues to pursue decades later are history, psychology, philosophy, art, science, and world cultures. An alumnus of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, Bob also fondly remembers the events and activities that always seemed to be happening on campus. He attended performances by the Boston Pops and readings by legendary poets Robert Frost and W.H. Auden. He also attended a conference where he met the renowned psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Above all, Bob credits his “History of the English Language” course with instilling in him the social consciousness and inclusive approach to language that shaped his career as a teacher and counselor.

During the course of his studies, Bob left UF for a time to serve in the U.S. Air Force. He then returned to Gainesville and completed his degree in 1961. Bob taught for a semester at Orange Park High School before moving to California to pursue teaching opportunities in the Golden State. He taught various English classes in the Fullerton high school district for 20 years. While there, he taught an extremely popular “Bible as Literature” class. Bob designed the course from “scratch,” and soon found himself the only teacher in the country teaching five sections of “Bible as Literature” per day. When he left Fullerton, it was to work for the Orange County Department of Education, a job Bob calls “the greatest job I ever had.” In Orange County, Bob started Horizon High School, an educational recovery program for adjudicated youth. He worked one-on-one with students as both a teacher and a counselor. In the beginning, Horizon High School served 11 students who were referred by probation officers. It operated out of a 32-foot motor home. Eventually, Horizon became a day school and then expanded to include afternoons. By the time Bob retired seventeen years later, the program he established served nearly 7,000 students at 57 sites around California.

Bob now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he enjoys exploring the landscape in his truck. Inspired by his work with students of Mexican origin, he has read over 100 books on Mexican history and culture, and currently is hard at work on a book of his own. He remains an avid reader, particularly of classic and contemporary fiction. “Literature brought me alive and still does,” he says. Although he left UF many years ago, Bob is still is working from a reading list he developed as a student in the English department.