Marshall E. Bowen

- 2020

Marshall E. Bowen, an emeritus professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Mary Washington, passed away at his home on August 19, 2020. Professor Bowen received an undergraduate degree from Plymouth Teachers College (NH), a masters from Kent State University (OH), and his doctorate from Boston University. He joined the faculty at Mary Washington in 1965 and retired in 2001.

Professor Bowen was known as a scholar of vacant lands in the American west, most notably Elko County, Nevada, and Park Valley, Utah, writing over 40 articles and a book. He authored Utah People in the Nevada Desert (Utah State University Press, 1994) and articles in the Western Historical Quarterly, Utah Historical Quarterly, Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Agricultural History, Material Culture and the Journal of Cultural Geography. His article, “Crops, Critters, and Calamity: The Failure of Dry Farming in Utah’s Escalante Desert, 1913-1918,” received the Ray Allen Billington Award for the best journal article in western history in 1999 from the Western History Association. His article, “The Russian Molokans of Park Valley,” received the Nick Yengich Memorial Editor’s Choice Award for the best article appearing in the Utah Historical Quarterly in 2015 from the Utah State Historical Society. In 1999, the Pioneer America Society, of which he was a long-term member presented him with the Henry H. Douglas Award for outstanding achievement in research, teaching, and service.

He taught thousands of students over his 36 year career at Mary Washington, packing the basement lecture hall in Monroe Hall with well over 300 students each semester as he shared his passion for places across North America. He also taught seminars in Historical Geography, and early in his career taught the Geography of Asia as well courses in physical geography. Some of the most life-changing experiences for students were shared by those who had the opportunity to take his summer field course to the American West throughout the 1970s. Many of those students went on to pursue advanced degrees in Geography. In 1987, he received the Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, followed by the Mortar Board Outstanding Professor Award in 1991.

An avid basketball player, Professor Bowen also served as the first men’s basketball coach at Mary Washington until 1976. Forty-five years later, many of those players remained a part of his life and hold frequent reunions to reminisce.

Professor Bowen is survived by his wife, Dawn, a Professor of Geography at UMW, a son and two daughters, and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be planned for a future date. The family requests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Geography Alumni Scholarship, University of Mary Washington Foundation, Jepson Alumni Executive Center, 1119 Hanover St., Fredericksburg, VA 22401-5412.