Former Governor Otis “Doc” Bowen died over the weekend at the age of 95. He will be remembered as one of the leading Indiana and his legacy will live on at, among other places, Ball State University.
In 2007 Otis Bowen donated many of his papers and other belongings to what is now the Bowen Center at Ball State.
It is a record of a remarkable life. At the Bowen Center you can learn how Doc Bowen rose from Marshall county coroner to Cabinet Secretary without changing his approach. “He knew how to diagnose problems,” said co-director Ray Scheele, “and that turned into a very good political diagnostician.”
The campaign materials in the Bowen Center date back to the ’50′s, to the time before Bowen became Speaker of the Indiana House, and a 2-term governor. You can find lots of photos, and important letters. You can even find a note with a face drawn on it, something President Reagan doodled and then handed to Bowen during a meeting. “Students, the public, anybody can access it,” says Assistant Dean John Straw.
One of the things you can find here is a letter from Otis Bowen to Ronald Reagan written in 1981. In it, Bowen turns down a Cabinet appointment, something that was never reported at the time. He wrote the letter just 9 days after his first wife, Beth, died of cancer.
He told President Reagan that he was crushed by her death and needed time to recover. Bowen took the job when it was offered again four years later.
Through it all you learn the essence of the man. “And here was this wonderful person who just went far beyond the name,” said co-director Sally Jo Vasicko.
And you also learn that he faced a lot of struggles. “But he always had a fair way of trying to deal with them,” says Scheele, “and I think that that’s really a strong lesson in any walk of life but particularly if you’re going to be in public affairs.”
It’s a lesson that will be taught at Ball State for decades to come.