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School’s Board of Advisors honor Dean Bowen with $307K commitment

UNC School of Social Work’s Board of Advisors has committed a $307,000 gift in honor of Dean Gary Bowen. The donation was presented to Bowen late last month and is designated for an unrestricted account, allowing the School the flexibility to use the funding as needed, including to attract and retain faculty and for student scholarships.

Long-time board member John A. Tate III, who spearheaded the funding effort, said he was thrilled to see his colleagues respond so generously.

“Their contribution speaks to the depth of the personal relationships that each board member has with Gary, and it’s a tribute to his leadership as dean,” Tate said.

Bowen, who was appointed dean of the School in 2016, is stepping down this year to return to a full-time role with the faculty. A Kenan Distinguished Professor, he has served on the School’s faculty since 1985.

Tate said board members were eager to recognize Bowen’s contributions to the School. Over the last five years, he led the development of a major comprehensive strategic plan for the School and helped foster new initiatives in anti-racism and social justice. He strengthened opportunities for research and innovation within the School, including the creation of the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Lab, the Global Social Development Innovations research center and the revitalization of the Jordan Institute for Families.

Moreover, he helped guide and support the School’s efforts to increase federal contracts and research funding, recruit the most diverse student body in its history and hire and retain a world-class and diverse faculty. In 2019, Bowen was named among the nation’s top 50 “Most Influential Contemporary Social Work Faculty” by the Journal of Social Service Review.

Under his leadership, the School also advanced from seventh to the third best School of Social Work in the country in the U.S. News & World Report national rankings – an achievement Tate said his late father John A. “Jack” Tate Jr. longed dreamed that the School would reach. The School’s campus building bears the names of the men responsible for its construction: Jack Tate, a retired banking executive and civic leader; the late John Turner, former dean and visionary who launched the School’s path toward national prominence; and the late Charles Kuralt, legendary news journalist and the son of a social worker.

“My father’s ambition was to see this School reach the Top 10, so Gary and those who have come before him have clearly worked to increase the impact of the School,” Tate said. “And today, that School continues on an incredible path.”

Bowen, who was surprised with the donation announcement, said he was incredibly humbled by the board members’ generosity.

“If I have one good attribute, it is to surround myself with competent and caring people, like each of you,” Bowen said in a message of thanks to the board members. “You have raised the bar for me, and I so much appreciate your wisdom, your support, and your presence in my life and in the life of our School of Social Work. Our mission is to make a difference in the lives of individuals and families in North Carolina and beyond: to advance equity, to transform systems, and to improve lives. I am proud to be your partner in this work.”