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John Roy Bowett: A Life Devoted to Canadian University College

by Heather Till

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John Roy Bowett in the classroom c. 1960: Teaching as the art of making history come alive.John Roy Bowett and Canadian University College (CUC - previously named Canadian Union College) have both been around for a long time. Despite his almost 90 years, Bowett stills stands tall and erect, maintains his own home and garden, and walks two kilometres (1.24 miles) to the post office at least twice a week (winter and summer). Bowett's path has intersected with that of Canadian Union College for more than 80 years. He has served it in many capacities, including student, teacher, writer and historian.

Bowett's long connection with CUC dates back to his father, Thomas Scorer Bowett. As a young man in England, Thomas was enticed by a life at sea and, by the time he was 19, he had sailed twice around the world. He met his wife, Ann Logan Mack Fraser, a Scottish school teacher, in Capetown, South Africa. They were attracted to Canada by an offer extended by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, then prime minister, who was promoting free land in Canada's West to those who would develop it. The adventurous young couple, with their six-week-old son, Cecil, set sail for Boston, where they landed in May 1906.

They travelled from Boston by rail to the "end of steel" (at that time, Edmonton). When they arrived, the city was in the midst of a typhoid epidemic. Thomas and Ann both were stricken with the illness. Thomas was taken to a Catholic hospital, Ann to the Edmonton Seventh-day Adventist Sanatorium. They both recovered, but not before Ann had developed an interest in the lifestyle and faith of the doctors and nurses at the Sanatorium. Soon after her release from the Sanatorium, she accepted the Adventist faith and was baptized. A year later, Thomas also joined the church. The Bowetts chose a homestead site in an Adventist community near Manville, Alberta. Within three years, they had made enough improvements (and paid the $10 fee) to secure title to 160 acres. On March 25, 1908, their second son, John Roy, was born. Three years later, the Bowetts' affiliation with Canadian Union College began.

In 1911, the family moved to the Rosedale Valley area, just north of Lacombe. Their land was adjacent to the 198 acres owned by the (then) Alberta Industrial Academy. Thomas had been offered the position of secretary to the principal of the academy, then in its fifth year of operation. He was on staff when the first graduate, Walter C. Clemenson, was awarded his certificate in 1913. The Bowett family later moved to coastal British Columbia, but John Roy returned to Lacombe in 1927 to attend high school. The school had by then changed its name to Canadian Junior College (CJC). To help cover his tuition expenses, Bowett worked at everything from janitorial duties to ringing the large bell signalling schedule times. He cleaned windows on the fourth floor of the Administration Building and hauled coal from Lacombe with the school's wagon and horses. He received his Grade 12 diploma in 1929, and two years later earned a "literary degree" from CJC. Following his dream of becoming a teacher, he took a further one year of education in Victoria, B.C., at a "normal school", and in 1932, he became a qualified teacher.

His first post was in Beaver Point on Salt Spring Island, off the west coast of the British Columbia mainland. There were 60 applicants for the teaching position in the one-room public school, which had an enrolment of 14 students in Grades 1 through 8. Bowett taught there for three years. He was then offered the position of principal at Shawnigan Lake School, a two-room, public high school near Duncan, B.C.. This promotion included a sizable increase in salary to $1,050 per year. With this wealth, Bowett felt he could support a wife, and in August 1936, he married Mildred Taylor, a church-school teacher at the Rest Haven Sanatorium and Hospital operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church near Sidney, B.C.

Bowett was excused from active service during WWII because of his teaching position. Most of his summers during the war years were spent at the University of British Columbia as he worked on a degree in education. He graduated in 1943 with a major in history. After earning his degree, he served as principal at Cobble Hill High School, a two-room public school near Duncan, where he also taught sciences and mathematics. For one year (1947) he served as principal at Okanagan Adventist Academy in Rutland, B.C.

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