Historian Shearer Davis Bowman dies at the age of 60

Historians in the News

BOWMAN, Shearer Davis, son of Carolyn and Shearer Bowman, died at his home on December 4, 2009. Born on July 9, 1949 in Richmond, Virginia, Dave attended the Collegiate Schools before enrolling at the University of Virginia, where he received a B.A. with distinction in history and served the student body as captain of the men's soccer team, president of his fraternity, vice president of the College of Arts and Sciences, vice-chair of the Honor Committee, and member of the Imp Society, TILKA, the 13 Society, and the Seven Society. After teaching briefly at St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Dave began his Ph.D. studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Dave's quiet, self-effacing manner gave little indication of his significant academic accomplishments, which included "Masters & Lords," published by Oxford University Press in 1993 and "At the Precipice," to be published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2010, as well as numerous articles and reviews. His heart and calling belonged to the teaching of history, believing firmly that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. He began his college teaching career at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he taught history and coached soccer (the latter with more enthusiasm than success). In 1986 he was hired away by the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for the next 15 years. Then, encouraging his wife, Lee, in a move to a pastorate in Lexington, he spent nine years teaching at Berea College and the University of Kentucky. Dave was ordained as an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Austin, until his wife became a pastor there, whereupon he resigned saying that two Bowmans on one church governing body was one too many. He also served as an enthusiastic and faithful Board member of Planned Parenthood in both Austin and Lexington. He had also served since 2003 as a member of the Board of Trustees at Lexington's Sayre School. In addition, Dave helped give form and substance to the Christian Education programs at First Presbyterian Church in both Austin and Lexington, always encouraging his classes, in the words of the German poet Rilke, to "live the questions." Dave is survived by his beloved wife of 37 years, Lee Willey of Memphis; their two children, Kate and Willis, whom he loved beyond any telling of it; and his siblings, Susan (David) Reynolds and Jane (John) Fain, all of Richmond, and John (Ginny) Bowman, of Durham, North Carolina. A memorial service honoring his life will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 174 North Mill Street, Lexington, at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 9. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Willey-Bowman Endowment Fund at Sayre School (Lexington), Planned Parenthood of Kentucky, or a speaker series (to be endowed in his name) at First Presbyterian Church of Lexington.

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