William G. Bowen

William Gordon Bowen (/ˈbən/; October 6, 1933  October 20, 2016)[1] was an American academic who served as the president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, serving as its president from 1988 to 2006.[2] From 1972 until 1988, he was the president of Princeton University. Bowen founded the digital library, JSTOR.

William G. Bowen
17th President of Princeton University
In office
Preceded byRobert F. Goheen
Succeeded byHarold T. Shapiro
Personal details
Born(1933-10-06)October 6, 1933
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
DiedOctober 20, 2016(2016-10-20) (aged 83)
Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
SpouseMary Ellen Bowen
EducationDenison University (BA), Princeton University (PhD)

Early life

William Bowen was born on October 6, 1933 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the son of Albert and Bernice Bowen. Albert Bowen was a calculator salesman and Bernice Bowen worked as a dorm mother at the University of Cincinnati.[3][4] Bowen graduated from Wyoming High School. He attended Denison University, where he played championship tennis and was initiated into the Sigma Chi fraternity. He graduated from Denison in 1955 and from Princeton University in 1958, where he earned a PhD.


Bowen joined the Princeton faculty in 1958, specializing in labor economics. In 1967 he became the university's provost, and served as the seventeenth president of the university from 1972 to 1988. In 1988, Bowen left Princeton to become president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where he created a research program to investigate doctoral education, collegiate admissions, independent research libraries, and charitable nonprofits in order to ensure that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's grants would be well-informed and more effective.

William Bowen was also partially responsible for JSTOR,[5] the Mellon International Dunhuang Archive, ARTstor, and Ithaka Harbors, Inc.

Bowen authored 19 books, including the Grawemeyer Award-winning The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions (co-authored with Derek Bok). One of his books, Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education (2005), was coauthored with Eugene M. Tobin and Martin A. Kurzweil. Bowen's study of graduation rates at public universities in the United States culminated in the book Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities[6] that was coauthored with Matthew M. Chingos and Michael S. McPherson.

Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead appointed him and Julius L. Chambers to evaluate the performance of Duke University's administration in handling the alarming.

Bowen died on October 20, 2016, fourteen days after his 83rd birthday, in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. He is buried in the Presidents' Plot at the Princeton Cemetery.

Positions held

Awards and recognition

Bowen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973 and a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1978.[7][8]

In 2013, he received a 2012 National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.[9][10]

In 2008, he received the José Vasconcelos World Award of Education for his lifetime's work creating educational opportunities.[11]

In 2001, he received the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for his book written with Derek Bok, The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions.[12]

See also


  1. "William G. Bowen, 17th president of Princeton University, dies at age 83". Princeton University. Archived from the original on October 9, 2019. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  2. "The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation". The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  3. Roberts, Sam (22 October 2016). "William G. Bowen, Princeton Educator Who Championed Poor and Minority Students, Dies at 83". The New York Times. p. A21. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  4. "Ever the Teacher". Princeton Alumni Weekly. 2016-11-23. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  5. "JSTOR About us". JSTOR. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  6. Bowen, W.G. and Chingos, M.M., McPherson, M.S.: Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities
  7. "William Gordon Bowen". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  8. "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  9. President Obama to Award 2012 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal Whitehouse.gov, retrieved 30 June 2013
  10. Princeton University - Former Princeton President Bowen awarded National Humanities Medal
  11. "José Vasconcelos World Award of Education 2008". Archived from the original on May 5, 2014. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  12. "2001 - William G. Bowen and Derek Bok". grawemeyer.org. The Grawemeyer Awards. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
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