Otis Bowen

Bowen memorial service held at Statehouse

May 23rd, 2013 at 3:08 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There was a memorial service in the Statehouse rotunda Thursday for former Governor Otis Bowen.  Former governors Ed Whitcomb, Evan Bayh and Joe Kernan were all in attendance at the ceremony honoring Indiana’s first two-term governor.

“The debt this state owes to Governor Otis R. Bowen can only be repaid by relentless imitation of his example,” Governor Mike Pence told the audience, “and so on behalf of the people of Indiana we express our deepest sympathies.”

Former Bowen aide Ray Rizzo also spoke.  “Doc let me in on his secret, his secret to success,” said Rizzo, “by saying ‘I just believe in letting other people have my way.’  It’s really very simple.”

Bowen died earlier this month at the age of 95.

Bowen legacy will be kept alive at Ball State

May 6th, 2013 at 5:13 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

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.

Bowen remembered as honest

May 6th, 2013 at 10:23 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Former governor Otis Bowen is being remembered today as a successful politician who served the nation in Washington, DC but one who always returned to his hometown of Bremen in northern Indiana.

Reverend David Kahlenberg will preach at Bowen’s funeral on Friday in Bremen.  He shared some of this memories with News 8 this morning.  “He was in a way, one of a kind,” said Kahlenberg, “because he was a politician with a heart and with a soul and a desire to please as many people as he could, not everybody but as many people as he could.  He was a man who was just  full of integrity and full of honesty as a politician and I wish we had more of them.”

Bowen, who was 95, died over the weekend.  He served two terms as governor before being named as Secretary of Health and Human Services under Ronald Reagan..

Bowen may be best known for championing property tax reform as governor and AIDS funding as HHS Secretary.

My Latest IBJ Column

August 8th, 2011 at 10:30 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

SHELLA: Rename clunky IUPUI for Doc Bowen

Jim Shella / Special to IBJ
August 6, 2011
You could come up with a clumsier name for a college than Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, but it would be tough.

Jim ShellaFormer Gov. Otis Bowen is 93. He is in the sunset of life and there is no better time to remind people of his immense political skills and contributions. I have an idea for a lasting and appropriate tribute to his service, but first let me offer some small examples of how he played the game.

I’m always amused when people who don’t know Doc Bowen, or know about him, see his official portrait hanging in the governor’s reception area. They usually make fun of the sky-blue suit with the white piping.

Never mind that the fashion speaks volumes about the 1970s in which he served. It makes the portrait historically significant. Do you think he knew that on the day he was to pose for the artist, as he passed over the navy suit in his closet, the one just like the one almost every other governor wore for his portrait?

The man who was known as both a kindly physician and a cutthroat dealmaker manages to show both sides of his personality in the painting. First, he is sitting, and smiling. There is nothing gubernatorial in the pose, which includes his hands extended with the fingertips and thumbs meeting in front of him. His thumbs are poised to twiddle. He looks grandfatherly.

But those who know will tell you the thumbs are significant. When you won an audience with Bowen, there was a time limit. When the governor had heard enough, he actually began to twiddle those thumbs. That’s when an aide told you the governor had other commitments he needed to address. You were headed for the door. The governor was the good cop. Shrewd stuff, artfully displayed.

Example No. 2 involves the late Richard Mangus. He used to tell a story that explained the Bowen approach in a nutshell. Mangus was first elected as a state representative from Lakeville after he emerged from a three-way GOP primary. He won by promising never to vote for a tax increase.

Then, Bowen asked for a tax increase. Mangus voted no.

Before a second vote on the tax hike, the new lawmaker was summoned to the governor’s office. Bowen was unhappy. He attempted to convince Mangus the tax hike was necessary. No sale. When it became apparent that logic wouldn’t work, Bowen didn’t do the thumb trick; he turned to the wall with his back to Mangus.

“We’ll just have to find you a primary opponent!” he declared.

When the tax increase came up a second time, Mangus hit the green light. A reporter from his home area hurried across the House floor to demand an explanation. After all, Mangus had just broken a campaign promise, the sort of thing that kills political careers. The answer: “Ask him!” Mangus pointed to the floor and the governor’s office below it as he said it.

The next day, Mangus got a front-page newspaper headline in his hometown that was the sort of thing politicians live for. “Mangus a Hero!” it read, quoting the governor.

No one recruited a primary opponent for him in the next election, voters accepted his change in position, and Mangus went on to a long career in the Legislature, a tenure he always attributed to Bowen.

Bowen’s career advanced, too. He went on to serve in Ronald Reagan’s cabinet after a time teaching at the Indiana University Medical School on the IUPUI campus. And that’s where we get to my idea for a lasting tribute.

Change the name of IUPUI to Bowen University. Do it now. Honor Bowen while he’s still alive.

IUPUI needs it. You could come up with a clumsier name for a college than Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, but it would be tough. The place needs an identity and that has been a source of concern in the Statehouse for decades. Remember how Indiana Central stole the name former state Sen. Larry Borst wanted for IUPUI and became the University of Indianapolis?

Bowen State University works, too.•

Bowen Hospital

August 3rd, 2009 at 5:21 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Rep. André Carson has filed legislation to have a new Veterans Administration Hospital named after former Governor Otis Bowen.

Its a nice touch by a Democrat seeking to honor a deserving Republican.  Bowen, a medical doctor, was also Health and Human Services Secretary under Ronald Reagan and a veteran.


January 12th, 2009 at 4:52 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The inauguration of Governor Mitch Daniels would be big news on another day but Tony Dungy’s retirement stole the headlines.  Can Daniels win back top billing with the State of the State tomorrow?

Congressman Dan Burton had a high profile, appearing with his wife at the Statehouse ceremony.  Meantime, GOP circles are buzzing about prospective opponents to Burton in the 2010 primary.  Names tossed around include Brose McVey, John McGoff, Luke Messer, Suellen Reed, Wayne Seybold, and I’m sure I left someone out.  Mike Delph wants to be in line when Burton steps down but something tells me the interest in his future will discourage any retirement plans.

Only two former governors were in attendance, Otis Bowen and Evan Bayh.  Ed Whitcomb and Joe Kernan didn’t make it.

Mangus Remembered

February 5th, 2008 at 5:29 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Former state Representative Richard Mangus (R-Lakeville) is being remembered for his knowledge and his leadership today.  I’ll always remember him as a keen politician.

Dick Mangus was the guy who drew the redistricting maps for the House Republicans in the days before computers did it. 

He always sat in the back of the chamber but was always out front when it came to political strategy.  In particular, he took joy in killing several attempts to adopt daylight saving time. 

Mangus was always happy to tell people that he got his political education from Governor Otis Bowen.  Then, as usual, he was being humble.