The GlimmerGlass takes a look into the history of Dr. John and Jill Bowling – from Mrs. Bowling’s perspective.
The GlimmerGlass: There are rumors that you and your husband left graffiti on the back of the Center for Student Success. Is this true?
Jill Bowling: Yes we did! The Center for Student Success was built as the President’s Home, so that’s where we lived for 15 years. We loved living on campus.
They were replacing the concrete of our driveway so we went out and carved in it. It should still be there at the northwest corner; it says “Jill + John.” I should have made it bigger though.
GG: How did your relationship with John grow here at Olivet?
Bowling: Well, I was WRA president, which is now Women’s Residential Life and he was the GlimmerGlass editor. He approached me in my senior year, his junior year, asking if I would like to do a column. From then on I would often see him in the GlimmerGlass office while I was turning in my articles.
My senior year, John was singing for homecoming and I was helping organize everything. He always says that I walked by, and he immediately turned to his roommate and said, ‘That’s who I’m going to marry.’ After homecoming he asked me out, and the rest is history.
GG: What was dating culture like while you were attending Olivet?
Bowling: We didn’t have these big group dates like people have now. We had nowhere to go as a group. There were no such things as open-dorms, there weren’t a lot of lounges or the Perry center… There was a fancy restaurant called “The Yesteryear” in Kankakee, which would have been a pretty serious date place and often the site of the ‘engagement thing.’
Olivet used to have Christmas and Valentine’s Day banquets in Chicago. Now no one would have dreamed of going with a bunch of girls–no, you had to have a date. Now who mandated that? I don’t know, culture? The 60s? The Beatles? I don’t know. But that’s just the way it was.
GG: Was the idea of “Ring by Spring” more prevalent when you were a student?
Bowling: No, not really, although it was kind of silently assumed that you would find a mate at college. It was not unusual at all to get married after your sophomore year.
You know now there’s more pressure to go to graduate school and get all these life experiences, but it was not unusual at all to get married while you were in college. And if you wanted to get married here you would first have to ask the president for his approval.
GG: What are some aspects of “old Olivet” that you loved the most?
Bowling: I know this wouldn’t go well with students now, but I loved living in dorms for all four years.
It was just easier to get to know everybody, and I just loved that community. Even though we have gotten bigger, hopefully that same idea is still engendered here.
GG: What is one memory you have from living on-campus?
Bowling: My freshman year, Williams was completely full, and McClain was just being built. It didn’t even have beds yet. They decided that women in the top 10 percent, based on our grades, would want to live in a quiet study environment.
So they put us on the top floor of McClain, with mattresses on the floor and without desks. We had to yell “woman on the floor” every time we went up there because workmen were still running around finishing everything.
GG: What are some things about Olivet today that you appreciate?
Bowling: I’m glad that it’s not unusual for women here to major in engineering, criminal justice, or forensics. Then you pretty much chose between being a teacher or a nurse. That was the whole thinking of times really.