An 'Evening with Friends' at Olivet Celebrates John & Jill Bowling

Olivet gala event recognizes the leadership, generosity and legacy of the Bowlings.

On Saturday, March 27, students, faculty, alumni and members of the community gathered in the Betty and Kenneth Hawkins Centennial Chapel, on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, for an evening of celebration in honor of university president, Dr. John C. Bowling and his wife, Dr. Jill Bowling. 

The “Evening with Friends” gala began with a stunning performance by professor Josh Ring on the Ruffatti Organ, and continued with a selection of hymns and gospel music, as well as Broadway favorites, performed by Orpheus Choir, Proclamation Gospel Choir, Concert Singers, the ONU Tigers Marching Band and select student, faculty and alumni musicians.

Additionally, soloists including Brian Allen ’82/’05 Litt.D., George Wolff ’93, Brian Parker ’93/’11 Ed.d, Mark Hodge ’94, Jasper Taylor ’10/’12 M.O.L., Dr. Marvin Jones, Cyndi (Green) Frame ’84, Taylin Frame ’13, Amber (Leffel) Olney ’14, Ashley (Raffauf) Cherney ’14, Jacquelyn Owens ’11, Ashlie McIntire ’10, Bradley Garvin ’87, Wes Taylor and Luke Olney ’10/12 M.O.L. showcased their vocal talents throughout the concert. Many of the musical selections for the evening were skillfully arranged and conducted by Ben Cherney ’14.

Interwoven with the music were speeches given by professor Ashley Sarver ’16/’18 MBA, Dr. Gary Streit, LaMorris Crawford ’06/’12 M.O.L. and chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Scott Sherwood ‘92. Full of reflection and gratitude, their poignant words reminded the audience of the many ways in which Dr. Bowling’s leadership and generosity have distinctly shaped the University and the surrounding community.

During his speech, Dr. Sherwood also officially launched the John C. and Jill Bowling Scholarship Endowment. Initially, the total fundraising goal was set for $1 million. However, through the generosity of lead gifts from the Olivet community, Dr. Sherwood announced that the endowment has already exceeded that goal. The fund will honor the legacy of the Bowlings by providing scholarship support to students for generations to come. To contribute to the endowment, visit olivet.edu/bowlingendowment.

The latter portion of the gala featured a film which highlighted the 30 years of accomplishments of the Bowlings through video selections of some of Dr. Bowling’s most memorable sermons, photos across the decades, and interviews with faculty and staff who recounted the numerous ways that the Bowlings have influenced and impacted the Olivet community.

Since taking the oath of office in August 1991, Dr. Bowling has modeled excellence in servant leadership for the University. Over the course of his tenure, he has provided leadership for the construction or acquisition of 61 new buildings and the major remodeling of 27 community buildings for University use. Additionally, he and Jill have helped enhance student life opportunities; raised millions of dollars and helped expand development efforts; established the ONU Global online graduate programs; opened the campus to the Chicago Bears summer training camp for 18 years; and encouraged the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra, surrounding schools, and guest artists and musicians to use campus facilities for concerts, theatrical productions, graduation ceremonies and conferences of all kinds. If that alone doesn’t demonstrate his commitment to excellence in the greater community, Dr. Bowling also made his mark as a long-serving member of the boards of directors of six local organizations.

Under Dr. Bowling’s leadership, Olivet has made significant strides toward becoming a nationally recognized and world-class institution throughout his presidency. Olivet consistently ranks well above its peers in third-party endorsements, including Best Christian Workplaces, Colleges of Distinction and U.S. News & World Report. In 2021, the University was ranked as the No. 2 Best Value School for regional universities in the Midwest by U.S. News.

This summer, Dr. Bowling will retire and pass the baton to Dr. Gregg Chenoweth, who will succeed him as the University’s 13th president.

For more information about life at Olivet, or to schedule a campus visit, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Photography: Image Group Photography and Joe Mantarian
Published 3/29/2021
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