Dyersburg State Holds Retirement Celebration for Dr. Karen A. Bowyer

Retirement celebration dinner for DSCC President Dr. Karen A. Bowyer held by the DSCC Foundation.

Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC) Foundation held a retirement celebration dinner for DSCC President Dr. Karen A. Bowyer at The Lannom Center Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.

Dr. Bowyer walked the red carpet as she was welcomed by family, friends, faculty, staff, and local community members as they gathered to celebrate her retirement. Reverend Gary Meade, Rector of Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church, gave the invocation before dinner. Vice President of the College Dr. Reid-Bunch welcomed and introduced Ms. Tina Morris, former vice president for institutional advancement and continuing education at DSCC, as the mistress of the ceremony. Personal remarks about Dr. Bowyer’s success were made by Governor Bill Lee, Senator Lamar Alexander, Dr. Belle Wheelan, Chancellor Flora Tydings, Mr. David Baime, Senator Ed Jackson, Senator Paul Rose, Mr. Larry White, Ms. Seela Newbill, and Mr. Slater Barr.

Dr. Karen A. Bowyer has served as president of Dyersburg State Com­munity College for over 37 years, and was the first female and third president to lead the College. In total, she has nearly 50 years of dedicated service in higher education as either an educator or an administrator and 8 additional years in 7-12th grade education. Most notably, Bowyer was the first female president at a public postsecondary college in the State of Tennessee and she is the first female and longest-serving president in the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) system. Dr. Bowyer began working in the TBR system when it was founded in 1972.

Bowyer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from Knox Col­lege in 1963; a Master of Arts degree in Mathematics from Rutgers, The State University, in 1967; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics Education from the University of Alabama in 1971. She married the late Dr. Carlton Bowyer and moved to Memphis in May of 1972.

Bowyer’s love for education was ignited when she began teaching math­ematics at Libertyville High School in Libertyville, Illinois, from 1963 to 1966. Her lifelong career in postsecondary education began when she traveled overseas to serve as a mathematics department coordinator and instructor at Colegio Bolivar, Cali, in Colombia, South America from 1967 to 1970. Upon returning back to the United States, she became a graduate assistant of international programs at the University of Alabama from 1970 to 1971. She taught in Mexico City, Mexico, at Colegio Americano – an American International School, from 1971 to 1972 as a mathematics coordinator and instructor. Bowyer served as a temporary instructor of mathematics at Memphis State University from September to December 1972. She then came to Shelby State Community College where she began work there as a part-time instructor of mathematics from January to June 1973; an assistant professor of mathematics and methodology from 1973 to 1974; head of the department and assistant professor of mathematics and methodology from 1974 to 1978; a coordinator of multicultural studies from 1975 to 1978; interim president from July 1981 to October 1982; and dean of instruction and associate professor of mathematics and methodology from 1978 to 1984.

On November 5, 1984, Bowyer became interim president of DSCC until she was appointed to her current position of president on May 1, 1986. Since becoming interim president in 1984 and president in 1986, Bowyer has led DSCC through significant growth. When she start­ed, the College consisted of only its Dyersburg campus, but Bowyer has since spearheaded the development of off-campus centers in Covington and Trenton. She was instrumental in opening the Gibson County Center in 1991 and the Jimmy Naifeh Center at Tip­ton County in 1996. The first year of Bowyer’s tenure at DSCC included a graduating class of 83 students. In 2020, the College had its highest number of graduates with 494 students. Enrollment has grown by more than 100% during her tenure, peaking at 3,751 in 2011-12.

Bowyer began the College’s first Annual Fund Campaign in 1985-86. Over the past 36 years, these campaigns have raised approx­imately $34.5 million dollars. She spearheaded the DSCC Foundation, which was chartered in 1988, and began raising money for an endowment fund that now totals over $11.3 million.

Bowyer has served on professional boards in various capacities including President, Tennessee College Association; Chair, North­west Tennessee P-16 Council; past Chair and Vice President of Education for the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce; member of the Dyersburg Kiwanis Club; Board member for the Heart of the South Girl Scout Council; past Chair of the Committee on Latin American Schools of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS); member of the Executive Council of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Board of Trustees; honorary Chair, West Tennes­see Girl Scouts Heart of the South 100th Anniversary; past Chair of the West Tennessee United Way Board; Chair of Fund Raising for the Dyer County Chapter of the American Red Cross in 2011-12; past member of the Board of Direc­tors of WLJT-TV (public television); past member of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity for the U.S. Secretary of Education; member of Board of Directors of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC); chair of the Presidents Academy of the AACC; past chair of the Join Commission on Federal Relations for AACC; and past Chair of the Dyer County YMCA Board of Directors. She graduated from Leadership Memphis in 1983 and from the Dyer County Leadership Program in 1997. Bowyer was also a member of the Founding Board of Directors for the WestStar Program.

Over the years, she has received recognition for her service and dedication to various organizations through awards presented to her such as, “Woman of the Year” in 1984 by the Laurelwood Business and Professional Women’s Club; “Woman of the Year” in 1987 and 2007 by the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce; “Woman of Distinction” in 1992 by the Reelfoot Girl Scout Council; the National Council of Instructional Administrators Outstanding Service Award in 1993; named “One of 20 West Tennes­see’s Most Influential Women” Sterling Award in 2010; and a Meritorious Service Award from SACSCOC in 2010. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Knox College in 1995 and from Southern College of Optometry in 2004. In addition, Bowyer became the first female college president inducted into the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) Hall of Fame in 2019. She has presented or written 44 programs, chapters and publications.

In December 2021 she will receive the James T. Rogers Distinguished Leadership Award from the SACSCOC.