by Steven Bodnar
In more than two decades at the Colleges, Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer has collaborated with students on scholarly papers, offered them research opportunities, and worked with them in the laboratory through the summer months. No matter the setting, he is dedicated to ensuring their success.
An expert on sustainable chemistry who routinely secures external funding, Bowyer researches new ways to produce manmade chemicals used for pharmaceuticals and plastics that are not harmful to the environment. But his work doesn’t stop in the lab.
Beyond campus, Bowyer is deeply committed to enriching the lives of young people through education-based volunteer work.
“So many members of the campus community participate in service projects,” Bowyer says. “Volunteering makes me feel that much more connected to HWS students. It’s so important to them and to me.”
Bowyer first began serving the community by coaching basketball for the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva. But it was on two study abroad trips to Ecuador and Peru that Bowyer realized how he could really make a difference through service. On those visits, he volunteered at a specialized facility that offers daycare services for low-income women facing personal hardships.
“Seeing the children of these young women endure such difficult circumstances really struck me,” Bowyer says. “That experience reinforced my desire to continue to serve the community at home and spend more time helping local children.”
Back in Geneva, Bowyer began volunteering with the Geneva Agri-Business Child Development (ABCD), a local nonprofit dedicated to providing educational services, such as Head Start programming. He was immediately impressed by the vibrancy of the children, as well as their desire to learn. Now, Bowyer heads to ABCD once a week to read books to students and encourage learning through play.
“Personally, community service is an important part of what I do and volunteering with young people can be a lot of fun,” Bowyer says.
In 2005, Bowyer and former Trustee Horace Allen ’85 joined together to create the HWS Summer Academy. The program brings the most talented and ambitious minority students from Geneva High School to the Colleges for two weeks each summer. From chemistry to English, students in the program participate in a range of academic programming offered around campus.
Summer after summer, Bowyer says he’s happy to work with local high school students and enjoys seeing them receive the support of their family and friends when they complete the program.
“Being a part of the Summer Academy has been great,” Bowyer says. “It’s just so rewarding to see the students succeed.”