John Carl Bowling has been the president of Olivet Nazarene University since 1991. Under his leadership, the University has flourished, as evidenced by record enrollments, new buildings, expanded degree programs, increased academic standards, improved athletic programs, extraordinary morale among staff and students, and more.
During Dr. Bowling’s tenure, Olivet’s enrollment has more than doubled. Through the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, the University, too, has a stronger national presence, as well as a stronger international reach through graduate studies in Puerto Rico and Hong Kong. In 2007, Dr. Bowling led in establishing the University’s first doctoral degree.
He has overseen several major developments to the campus, including acquisition of the 30-acre Fortin Villa property for ROTC and intramurals, as well as construction of the Admissions Center; Weber Center; the 3,000-seat Centennial Chapel (dedicated in 2010); the 180,000-square-foot Perry Student Life and Recreation Center (opened in 2012); and the engineering expansion of Reed Hall of Science (opened in 2014).
Dr. Bowling is largely credited for bringing the Chicago Bears Training Camp to the Olivet campus and the Bourbonnais community in 2002. The University has been named one of the top 25 “Best Christian Workplaces” in the United States by the Best Christian Workplaces Institute for several consecutive years — with consistently high scores for the “degree of trust between senior leadership and employees.”
He has been elected twice as General Superintendent (2005, 2009) for the Church of the Nazarene, the highest position of leadership within the international denomination. In both instances, he declined the election in order to retain his post as president of Olivet.
During the semiannual meeting in October 2015, with a vote of 54 to 0, Olivet Nazarene University’s Board of Trustees voted to renew Dr. Bowling’s appointment as president of the University. According to the University bylaws, the board may elect to renew the presidential appointment for a maximum of five years, and the board unanimously voted to do so.
Dr. Bowling holds a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and two earned doctorates, and he was chosen as a resident fellow for post-doctoral studies at Harvard University. In 2007, he was honored by Olivet with the conferral of the Doctor of Divinity degree as part of the University’s centennial celebration.
In addition to his work at Olivet, Dr. Bowling is active in a variety of professional and local community organizations, including membership on the Board of People’s Bank in Kankakee. He served for many years as vice chairman of the Riverside Health System Board of Directors and for 10 years as a member of the Board of Trustees of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He has also served on the boards of United Way and the Kankakee Valley Chamber of Commerce.
He was selected as the CASE District V Chief Executive Leader in 2020; the Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce; and received the Community Alliance Beacon Award in recognition of service, vision and leadership in the community. His special community recognition includes Samaritan of the Year by Riverside HealthCare Foundation and Citizen of the Year by the Kankakee Daily Journal.
Dr. Bowling has authored more than 65 published articles and seven books: A Way With Words, Grace-full Leadership, Packin’ Up and Headin’ Out: Making the Most of Your College Adventure, Making the Climb: What a Novice Climber Learned About Life on Mount Kilimanjaro, Above All Else: 20 Years of Baccalaureate Sermons, ReVision: 13 Strategies to Renew Your Work, Your Organization, and Your Life, and Windows and Mirrors: Exploring the Parables of Jesus.