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Vision for Okanagan College taking shape

Okanagan College celebrates 60 years
Bill Bowering retired as president of Okanagan University College in 1997. Now 91, Bowering still lives in Kelowna. (Contributed)

William Bowering shared with many others a vision for what Okanagan College could become back in the 1970s.

And, while that vision may still be a work in progress, Bowering looks at the development of the college – both at the main campus in Kelowna and unique regional campuses in Salmon Arm, Penticton and Vernon – as a significant asset both for those communities and specifically for students embarking on a post-secondary education path.

“There are certainly benefits to the community at large,” said Bowering.

“I certainly feel good about it in that regard.”

Bowering is considered by many to be the architect of post-secondary education in the Okanagan Valley.

He played a key role in the transition of Okanagan College to Okanagan University College and was involved in introducing baccalaureate programs, expanding trades and technologies programs, and building five regional campuses across the valley.

Bowering, now 91, originally came to OC as a chemistry professor in 1969 when the college first began to offer academic courses in combination with an already established vocational program.

He became assistant dean and dean, later becoming vice-president and then president of the college, the latter position he retired from in November 1997.

Bowering says having both Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan in the Okanagan, is an asset to the region.

As a graduate of UBC, Bowering has an understanding of smaller universities, which place a greater emphasis on teaching relationships with students, and larger universities, which have a greater focus on research.

“There are pluses and minuses to both, but overall the benefit of having them both here has been positive,” he said.

Bowering says the growth of Okanagan College is directly related to forming relationships in the community to fundraise and help support that growth.

“There has always been a strong bond there between the college and community. I think a number of people worked very hard to develop those relationships with local authorities because back in the early days, we needed that support to get anything done,” he said.

Also helpful was OC taking over the adult education program from the school district, which brought an enrolment of 30,000 students a year to the OC campuses, saying “it brought a lot of contact to people in the community and created a favourable impression with them which helped so much with what subsequently happened for OC.”

In his retirement, Bowering continues to live in Kelowna and has been active in supporting the Okanagan Symphony and the preservation of Knox Mountain Park.

His connection to the college also continued, as he just recently stepped down as a member of an ethical review board overseeing human-related research studies.

“I sat on that committee for the last 10 or 12 years and decided last year that perhaps it is time to get someone new,” he quipped.

Looking ahead, Bowering is supportive of a new fundraising initiative by the college to develop a gymnasium.

“The (wellness centre) gymnasium reflects the idea that education is about more than sitting in a classroom…brings out different perspectives within the college and invites the opportunity for more community involvement…more primarily, I think, is for student well-being” for competitive and recreational sports activities, he said.

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Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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