Ex-ISU President Bowman named Illinois Board of Higher Education’s director

Al Bowman
Al Bowman served as Illinois State University President from 2003 to 2013. (Photo courtesy Al Bowman)

By Eric Stock

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Board of Higher Education has announced the appointment of former Illinois State University President Al Bowman to serve as its Executive Director.

Bowman served as ISU’s 17th President from 2003 until 2013.

“The short answer is I flunked retirement,” the 64-year-old Bowman quipped.

Bowman, who has continued teaching at ISU since giving up the presidency, said he wants to help advocate for higher education in Springfield, something that’s been lacking since the Higher Education Board has been without a director for nearly a year.

“I enjoy that environment and when I was president I enjoyed being in Springfield and talking about higher education,” Bowman said. “I think one of my strengths is I am able to explain this rather unusual world higher education lives in.”

Bowman said he believes lawmakers and the governor understand the critical state of higher education in Illinois as schools have faced deep funding cuts.

“I think they do and I think the tipping point was the recent articles regarding the outmigration of students to other states for college” Bowman said.

Bowman served on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s transition team.

“Bowman’s strong commitment to excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, and to ensuring access to a high-quality education that is affordable and valued by Illinois’ citizens sets the right tone at a crucial time in the state’s higher education history,” IBHE Chair Tom Cross said. “Growing the reputation of Illinois colleges and universities as the first-choice for a quality postsecondary education and the development of a world-class workforce will be the board’s number one priority under Dr. Bowman’s leadership.”

After becoming chairperson of ISU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in 1994, he served as ISU provost until his appointment as president. Under his guidance at Illinois State University, Bowman led the University’s first major comprehensive campaign, which raised over $96 million.

During Bowman’s tenure as president, ISU achieved historic highs in graduation and retention rates. In addition, Bowman led the university through a number of major building projects, including the State Farm Hall of Business, the Student Fitness Center, Schroeder Hall reconstruction, Alumni Center, Cardinal Court Housing Complex, baseball stadium and the Hancock Stadium east-side grandstand.

Bowman was initially tabbed to serve as the IBHE’s interim director but said after meeting with the board he is agreeable to making the position permanent. He has signed a one-year contract.

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