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Bowne Drives GRCC Campaign
Bowne is heading an endowment campaign that aims to bring more than $10 million to the Foundation at Grand Rapids Community College for scholarships, improvements, faculty development and technology. Bowne wants to increase the fund from about $13 million to at least $25 million.
“Our primary focus isn’t on capital, it’s about building an endowment where we can use the earnings of the endowment to reinvest in each of these areas,” he said.
In the executive director position he started in September, Bowne will oversee not only the foundation, but also alumni relations, scholarships and grants management.
“Right now, my big focus is getting this campaign up and running,” he said. “We’re just now beginning the quiet phase of the campaign; I’d expect that the public phase will begin early first quarter 2006.”
Bowne said the campaign will benefit a number of areas in the college, with the most visible being the scholarships.
“There’s a tremendous amount of need in this community for scholarships so folks can attend community college,” he said.
Increasing the foundation funding is also a way to expand opportunities the college extends to the community.
“This campaign is not about funding what we’re already doing; it’s about new, bigger, better, current offerings,” he said.
While the campaign will require much of his attention for the next few months, Bowne said he also is trying to establish a stronger tie with alumni.
“We want to do an even better job connecting alumni,” he said.
He would also like to establish an annual giving campaign separate from the current endowment campaign.
“We know there are unmet needs,” he said of the college’s scholarship offers.
Bowne’s own college experience was at Western Michigan University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in regional planning, and a master’s and doctorate in educational leadership. He worked as a residential director and assistant to the dean of men for three years at Calvin College, then spent one year working at Project Rehab in the student assistance program.
“It was great exposure to prevention and student assistance programs,” he said.
He then worked in corporate training for Dilesco Corp. in 1990; when the economy took a downturn and the company downsized, he worked on the floor where he had previously trained.
“I learned a lot and gained a lot of respect (for my co-workers),” he said.
Bowne worked at American Coil Spring Co. in its human resources department from 1992 to 1994 before moving to the Association of Commerce and Industry, now known as The Chamber: Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg. Bowne worked there in several roles until 2000.
“Land development was not my strength,” he said. “My passion has been around education, employee development, community development and so forth. It felt like, long term, that wasn’t the best fit for me.”
After working for three years at Shape Corp., Bowne became executive director of work force training and economic development at Grand Rapids Community College, a position he is still filling until a successor is found. Bowne said there is a national search under way, and a new director should be in place by December.
Bowne said he is balancing his two positions now, putting about 75 percent of his energy toward his new position and 45 percent toward his former position.
“Yes, I’m being very deliberate about that percentage,” he said of giving 120 percent. “That’s part of the deal: When you move internally, there’s some transition time.”
Bowne said he decided to pursue the transition after discussing the position with college president Juan Olivarez.
“Juan and I had some conversations about what the position looked like and was I a good fit. I went through the selection process, threw my hat in the ring … and somehow ended up on top.”
Olivarez said Bowne has all the right characteristics for his new position.
“He has a great personality, he is very people oriented, he’s quick on his feet,” Olivarez said. “He has a really good business sense. All of those are very important to us in our college advancement work.”
Bowne was successful in his last position at the college, Olivarez said, but now he will have a broader range of responsibilities.
“You can train people on the technological skills of a job, but the inherent personal — and even some of the harder end skills that he had — were very important,” he said. “This new position for him is broader, and he will have more of an impact on the college than where he was before.”
Olivarez said Bowne “rose to the top” during the interview process, convincing others of what Olivarez already knew.
“I see a lot of potential in him, and you want to grow people like that in your organization,” Olivarez said.
Bowne said he is excited to continue his work at the college in his new role.
“This is such a great place, with such potential and opportunity for the folks who call this home, who call this place a first start — that’s why I do it,” he said. “We’re providing opportunities for students to take a step.”