Honoring 100 for the 100th: Sam Bowman

Bowman holds a B.S. degree from Penn State University and an M.S.W degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Between his undergraduate and graduate degrees,, Bowman served in the U.S. Navy from 1962 to 1965. Immediately after his discharge from the Navy, Bowman worked the intake desk at Salvation Army for a year in preparation for entry into the graduate program at Pitt.

After graduation from the University of Pittsburgh, Bowman accepted a position with Catholic Charities in Los Angeles. From 1967 to 1969, he worked first, as a community center director in East Los Angeles, and then as a center director in south central L.A.

In 1970, Bowman and his family moved to Oklahoma City to accept a position with Neighborhood Services Organization (NSO), a new, start-up social service agency. NSO was created and jointly funded by the United Way of Oklahoma City and the United Methodist Church. The funding partners afforded NSO broad parameters to address unmet needs in the community. NSO’s initial staffing comprised five employees, three of whom held M.S.W degrees. Bowman was appointed as an adjunct faculty position with the O.U. School of Social Work in 1970. NSO also became a field work placement agency for the school, and, was thereby, able to expand its community development activities exponentially.

Bowman became Executive Director in 1973, and held that position until he resigned in 1994. Incubating, and, then spinning off new services became the model for NSO’s community development endeavors. Some of the programs initiated by NSO which still exist ( in much more magnanimous ways ) include: Mobile Meals, Public Inebriate Alternative (P.I.A.), the Food Bank, Positive Tomorrows School for Homeless Children, Latino Community Development Agency, and several low-income, inner city neighborhood associations. O.U. School of Social Work students had a hand in every one of these developments. In particular, the idea and impetus for starting a school for homeless children came from an O.U. social work student.

In 1995 Bowman left NSO to accept a position with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. One of he initiatives lifted up by the Central Oklahoma 2020 Plan was to address the need for a coordinated, community wide, after school initiative for school aged children. The Community Foundation accepted the challenge and hired Bowman to undertake the initiative. For the next ten years he worked to develop new partnerships between the Oklahoma City School District and a wide range of non profit entities, including; The Arts Council, OKC Parks Department, OKC Zoo, National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Omniplex, City - County Library System, YMCA, YWCA, and Boys and Girls Club. Some of these initiatives are still operating, like the Play in the Park summer program.

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