Hundreds of students chanted retiring Illinois State President Al Bowman out of his Hovey Hall office on Friday for an emotional farewell rally on the Quad.
The surprised president popped his head out his office window around noon after a mass of students—accompanied by members of the Big Red Marching Machine—started singing and chanting to get his attention. The crowd erupted and sang the Illinois State fight song as he walked down the steps of Hovey to a low-key stage and microphone, where he was introduced by his wife, Linda Bowman.
She said they’ve been touched by the outpouring of praise, especially on social media, since President Bowman announced Monday that he planned to retire. Friday’s rally was organized by the students themselves, largely on Facebook, led by Student Trustee Aaron Von Qualen, the Student Government Association, and SGA President Andrew Manno.
“We’ve been absolutely amazed by the things you have told us about how you feel about the last 10 years of this man’s work,” Linda Bowman said. “This man is very easy to love.”
VIDEO: Check out video from Friday’s rally:
The president took the microphone and said it’s been a “roller coaster” week and that he’s proud of Illinois State’s students and the University’s increased prominence under his administration. Bowman also spoke to what he called worries that “this will slip away” in his absence.
“I know that’s not going to happen,” Bowman said. “I know it will only get better.”
On the eve of Finals Week, the students chanted “Bowman! Bowman! Bowman!” after the president joked he was going to tell all of their professors to give them straight A’s for attending.
Bowman wished them the best, during Finals Week and beyond.
“But remember one thing: You started it all right here at Illinois State,” he said. “We love you. Thank you!”
The ISU Men’s Glee Club lead the arm-locked crowd in a singing of the Alma Mater, as the Bowmans stood on stage with Von Qualen and Manno. Also on hand were faculty, staff, and members of the local media.
Friday’s rally, planned in only a few days, “started as a small idea,” Von Qualen said. But it grew and grew as different groups bought in, including the marching band, Glee Club, cheerleaders and Athletics. Reggie Redbird was also on hand to get the crowd going at the start of the rally.
“We felt we needed to give back to him in some way,” Von Qualen said. “We wanted to have a powerful experience for him.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.