Al Bowman became Illinois State University’s 17th president on March 1, 2004, after serving one year as interim president.
Under Bowman’s leadership, Illinois State has been transformed into a first-choice Illinois public university, ranking for seven straight years as one of the top 100 public universities in the nation for quality and value, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.
During Bowman’s tenure as president, Illinois State achieved historic highs in freshman ACT average (24.3), freshman-to-sophomore retention rate (85 percent) and standard measure graduation rate (70.4 percent). The University also constructed a $50 million Student Fitness Center/McCormick Hall, opened a new Alumni Center, renovated many classroom buildings and completely remodeled six residence halls. President Bowman also initiated the University’s first-ever public/private student housing partnership, leading to a 900-bed, privately-owned, student apartment complex constructed on University-owned land.
Bowman received a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology from Augustana College and a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Eastern Illinois University. He chose the University of Illinois-Urbana for his graduate work, completing a Ph.D. in speech and hearing science.
Bowman was a staff speech pathologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Danville prior to joining Illinois State in 1978 as a faculty member in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. He was appointed chairperson of the department in 1994, and held the position for eight years, while also serving as director of the Down Syndrome Speech-Language Clinic and continuing to teach a course each semester.
Under Bowman’s leadership the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, now the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, was awarded accreditation by the Council on Academic Accreditation of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, faculty and staff scholarly productivity doubled, and the master’s program rose in prestige to its current ranking as No. 1 in Illinois. A doctoral program in audiology was added to the program during Bowman’s presidency, one of only five in the State of Illinois. In 2007, Bowman was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In the 2002-2003 academic year, Bowman left the chair’s position to serve as Illinois State’s interim provost. He served as interim president of Illinois State from June 2003 until he was named president in March 2004.