by Kelly Sullivan
A “Nixon Now” bumper sticker, a crumpled and tattered dollar bill, a picture of a young girl, a picture of a cabin on an undisclosed lake, all posted on a bulletin board. A cluttered desk, a middle aged man sitting and grading papers. Not an uncommon scene at Whatcom Community College, or other college campuses across the nation. However Earl Bower, political science and history teacher at Whatcom, is anything but a common man.
Few of those who know Bower can or will deny, (except perhaps Bower himself), that he is a man of many talents. Earl Bower has been here at Whatcom since 1975. “I drove in on a foggy day; I followed the signs to NW Road Facility, interviewed at Whatcom, and afterwards went to Maury’s.” The rest is history.
As an instructor, Bower stands at the front of his appointed, non-descript classroom and speaks to his students with respect. His voice is boisterous, but engaging. Bower allows and encourages free discussion between his students and himself during lecture.
Bower is passionate in his profession, an interest that stemmed from his early days growing up in Wenatchee, Washington. His ancestors came west in a covered wagon, which influenced his interest in the Pacific Northwest and it geography.
Bower also explains that this family history, coupled with the fact that he grew up in the dynamic political climate of the 1970s inspired gravitation towards an education relevant to the revolutionary decade. This manifested itself in a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in history from Washington State University.
Before he chose this course of study, Bower had been an aspiring music major after graduating from Wenatchee High School. He feared, however, that this would result in directing “the Quincy Jack Rabbit Band,” and after graduating in 1968 he applied to Whatcom Community College in 1975 because he wanted to teach, and, “I wanted time off in the summer.”
Some may have seen Bower around Whatcom exhibiting his amazing abilities with the guitar. Bower has been playing since the ripe age of 15, attributing his initial inspiration to take up the instrument from his father Bower who was a small town music director.
As a boy, Bower would play instruments in church, including the woodwinds, saxophone and clarinet, but also filled in on bells, bass drum and electric guitar. “I always like to look back with fond memories,” Bower said of these times from his childhood.
His expertise is in Bossa Nova and Choro, which are challenging styles of Brazilian music. Bower is well-versed in classical technique, but prefers jazz which allows him the freedom to venture from the emphasis of “playing how the composer wrote it,” which Bower stated is dominant in classical music.
“Earl Bower performs with wonderful artistry and professionalism. I know for a fact that he has sacrificed many a daily hour and many an evening rehearsing and performing for our college,” said Ben Kohn. Kohn, who is a German teacher at Whatcom, is also a long time friend and colleague of Bower’s.
Bower can be found on campus performing with whoever desires his accompaniment. He has played with the Chamber and Collegiate Choirs, and all three of the language clubs on campus. At the end of last quarter, he played at the world languages’ Winterfest with the German Club.
Bower also plays with Kohn and Chris Roberts, both instructors at Whatcom Community College. They play in a variety of styles, from German Cabaret to French jazz.
“Earl Bower is very modest, but is really an amazing musician,” said Kohn. “He is very accommodating and professional, and very generous with his time.”
Bower said of the trio’s dynamic, “Ben is in charge of showmanship, Chris is in charge of musical taste, and I’m in charge of plugging the amp in and making sure every one wore their trousers.”
An interesting fact about Bower is that he has been rumored to have a history of wearing vibrant Hawaiian shirts. “I’ve never been to Hawaii” said Bower.
When asked about the “loud shirts” Kohn said, “He may have occasional lapses in fashion aesthetic.” Kohn however, admitted to owning a few himself.
Bower is unsure of his next campus performance. “No doubt we’ll turn up playing somewhere,” he said.
Kohn’s answer was a little more precise, however. “He doesn’t know it yet but he will be accompanying the German Club at International Night,” this event will take place in late February. Additionally, Kohn is going to schedule him for an intimate classroom performance of 1920s music for his students the quarter.
Aside from his dedicated time at Whatcom, Bower enjoys working with his wife at their summer cabin in Chelan. He has four children, and recently played at his daughter Mckenzie’s wedding along with Kohn and Roberts.
He can also be found in the big barn on his property with his collections of antique cars, motorcycles and model airplanes.
“Anything a 10 year-old-boy would enjoy,” Said Kohn.
Bower for the record, is not a fan of Nixon, but clarifies the bumper sticker was a gift from a student one year. He has kept his first dollar bill, one he found behind his barn during his childhood. If you are presented with the chance to get to know him grasp onto it, Bower is full of stories and memories from a fruitful life here in the Pacific Northwest, and is an important part of our community here at Whatcom.