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Lifelong Learner Extraordinaire

The following article was featured in an abbreviated format within the Spring 2017: "Exploring Otterbein's DNA" edition of Towers Magazine. The complete article is provided below.

By Tuesday Trippier ’89

A rewarding career as a clinical psychologist is only the tip of the iceberg for Dr. Michael Bowers ’78. Add teacher, artist, photographer, poet, author, inventor, collector, outdoor enthusiast and wilderness guide to his list of accomplishments.  Bowers, who resides in Denver, CO, when not traveling around the world for his current job, traces his zeal for life and continuing curiosity back to two concepts he learned while a psychology major at Otterbein: the balance between vocation and avocation, and the concept of “lieben und arbeiten”—a German phrase attributed to Sigmund Freud which means “love and work.” If Freud observed that the happiest people are those who have a balance between love of life and the rewards of meaningful work, then Bowers is living proof. 

A first generation college student from Greenville, OH, Bowers followed a friend to Otterbein and discovered it was a perfect fit. He remembers professors Dr. Larry Cox and Dr. Joyce Karsko as having a huge impact on his career choice.

“I had an incredible experience at Otterbein,” remembers Bowers. “The community life eased me into adulthood, the liberal arts developed my mind and spirit for a life well-lived, and the education prepared me for a gratifying career. My Otterbein friends were mainly pre-med students who taught me to be a disciplined student. Campus life nurtured my growth beyond shyness. I especially relished the religion, literature and philosophy classes which put me on the path to my spiritual practice, stimulated my appreciation for lifelong learning and nourished my enthusiasm for living an art- and idea-centered life.”

Bowers went on to the University of Denver where he received his doctorate degree in psychology and, following an internship at the University of Pennsylvania, returned to Denver to pursue his career in clinical psychology and family life. Bowers describes his career as having three phases. 

The first phase was 20 years specializing in behavioral medicine, working in a variety of medical settings including hospitals, clinics and private practice. The second career phase was 10 years teaching undergraduate psychology and critical thinking and serving as a college counselor. This led to a position in college administration as director of student development, where he enjoyed the creative aspects of developing student leadership/government programs and co-curricular activities for a college for commercial art students. In the third and current phase is his psychology career for the past seven and a half years as a counselor in a program for the U.S. Department of Defense called the Military and Family Life Counselor program.

“This program is designed to make it easier for active duty service members and their families to obtain confidential, solution-focused counseling for life issues before these issues become serious problems,” explains Bowers. “I have been very fortunate to have worked at bases in the western U.S., England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Alaska and Hawaii. The work is very rewarding and the life experiences are amazing.”

Bowers, who is currently on assignment in west central Germany, says he has developed a deep respect for military personnel and the incredible sacrifice of their families.

Keeping his childhood love of art alive, Bowers has devoted much of his free time to creative pursuits. He has kept a journal since being required to do so for an off-campus experience at McCurdy School in Espanola, NM, his junior year.

Bowers had his first real eye-opening experience of life beyond his working class, Midwest upbringing. He wrote about his revelations and has kept the practice up ever since, incorporating poetry and sketching as well. During his travels abroad, his writings and poems reflect his love of the great outdoors as well as his keen sense of observation. Since penning his first poems while at Otterbein, he has published numerous poems and has written a column for the newspaper in his historic Denver neighborhood, “A Walker’s Guide to Park Hill.”

Bowers also enjoys sketching and drawing, favoring colored pencil sketches, especially in the outdoors. Combining his passion for nature and world travel, Bowers has focused in recent years in photography which is a natural pairing for his passionate pursuits of nature, wilderness and outdoor activities. His favorite adventures include backpacking, hiking, skiing and cave exploration in Colorado and wherever he is stationed.

A natural complement to being outdoors and enjoying art, collecting has been a lifelong hobby for Bowers. In his home, he maintains an extensive collection of “stuff” he refers to as “Dr. Mike’s Museum of Found Art.” He traces the origin of his collection to five arrowheads found as a boy in Ohio. His collection includes minerals, crystals and ancient stone tools gathered on hikes and rock hounding expeditions around Colorado and during his travels. The rest of his collection is found art he has gathered over the years.

After more than 30 backpacking treks to his favorite destination, Lost Creek Wilderness, which is southwest of Denver, Bowers has become a local expert on and wilderness guide to the unique area.

Always open to new ideas, Bowers, through his work in health psychology and teaching people about emotions, has invented the “E-motion Ball,” a teaching toy that helps children process emotions through physical activity. The ball has emoticons representing the six major emotions with arrows and symbols to teach children to cope with difficult emotions in a constructive manner. He has also developed a card deck emoticons and flow charts to use in “interactivities” to each emotional intelligence to people of all age groups. His work in this area led him to create a workshop called “E-motion” which he hopes to use as the basis for establishing a non-profit organization in his retirement with the mission of teaching people of all ages to increase their emotional intelligence and, in turn, improve their quality of life.

Bowers has pursued his goal of a “vivid life” by mindfully and energetically pursuing his skills, talents and interests to embrace life and live it to its fullest — to balance vocation and avocation — and he encourages others to do the same.

“I believe that people, once they reach mid-life, select one of two different paths by their day-to-day choices,” he observes. “Some continue to seek out new experiences and pursue their passions. Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson calls this ‘generativity.’ Others tend to experience ‘progressive diminishment,’ a term from gerontology which means a narrowing down of their interests and activities — gradually getting in a rut.”

A rut is not likely someplace you will find Dr. Bowers — unless, of course, there is something in it to discover.

Towers Magazine Cover: Spring 2017

Towers Magazine

Towers is published twice a year by the Office of Marketing & Communications of Otterbein University.

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