Some faculty members leave a mark at universities. Retired professors Barbara and Richard (Dick) Schowen are quintessential examples. They are scholars who became a part of the fabric at KU through outstanding service, teaching and mentoring.
The Schowens began their 55-year careers as faculty members after completing their doctorates in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During their careers, they became well-known for their leadership and earned national accolades for innovation.
In addition to their service to the University of Kansas, the Schowens have made philanthropic gifts for 42 consecutive years, qualifying them as some of the most loyal donors in the Jayhawk Faithful recognition program.
“We felt that we should give back and help support those departments and programs we both enjoy and find meaningful.”
“We have always enjoyed attending lectures, performances and events in disciplines outside our professional areas,” Barbara said. “Although we have contributed to various science departments, we also felt that other units at the university might benefit from our support, such as the Libraries, the Hall Center for the Humanities, the Theatre Department and the Spencer Museum of Art.”
Barbara taught chemistry at KU before being named director of the Honors Program. During her tenure, she created the Undergraduate Research Symposium. She was nationally recognized for her leadership in championing undergraduate research for science majors. Barbara received the Kemper Award for Teaching Excellence at KU and was elected to the Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame. She retired in 2003.
Dick had faculty appointments in chemistry, molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical chemistry. He received an NIH Research Career Development Award and the Dolph Simons Sr. Award for Research in the Biomedical Sciences. He also was awarded the prestigious Solon Summerfield Professorship. Moreover, he traveled extensively within the United States and abroad as a visiting professor. He retired in 2000 as distinguished professor emeritus.
Barbara and Dick had different upbringings. Barbara obtained her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College, where she developed a broad cultural awareness. “Dick had to work in manual labor for several years before attending the University of California at Berkeley,” Barbara said. During his free time, he became an avid reader of literature and history. This interest in the liberal arts informed their decision to not merely enjoy but to financially support the cultural opportunities at KU.
Through the decades, the Schowens became symbols of service and generosity to KU, the institution they came to know as their home.