Marshall E. Bowen

Marshall E. Bowen

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography Marshall E. Bowen, 82, passed away Aug. 19, 2020, at his home. A native of Providence, Rhode Island, he moved to Fredericksburg in 1965 to join the faculty of Mary Washington College, where he taught until his retirement in 2001.

Bowen shared his passion for North America with more than 300 students each semester in a packed Monroe Hall lecture room 116, now the James Farmer lecture hall. He taught seminars in historical geography and, early in his career, taught the geography of Asia as well as courses in physical geography.

Throughout the 1970s Bowen’s summer field course to the American West had a profound effect on students and led many to pursue advanced degrees in geography. Bowen received the 1987 Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the 1991 Mortar Board Outstanding Professor Award.

His devotion to students went beyond academics. An avid basketball player, Bowen was Mary Washington’s first men’s basketball coach, a position he held until 1976. Many of his players remained a part of his life, held frequent reunions, and are devoted to his memory today.

Bowen earned a bachelor’s degree from New Hampshire’s Plymouth Teachers College, a master’s degree from Kent State University, and a Ph.D. from Boston University.

He is survived by his wife, Professor of Geography Dawn Smith Bowen ’86, a son, two daughters, and four grandchildren. The family requests that expressions of sympathy take the form of contributions to the Geography Alumni Scholarship, University of Mary Washington Foundation, Jepson Alumni Executive Center, 1119 Hanover St., Fredericksburg, VA 22401.


  1. Debra Lyn HARTLINE says

    I loved both of his classes that I took, geography of North America 1&2. We travel a lot and sometimes little tidbits from those classes still pop into my head.

    • Laura Moyer says

      Glad you got to study with Dr. Bowen and that his lessons have stayed with you.

    • Kate McAloon says

      Yes! I took his intro classes to North America in the early 90s and just like you, tidbits from those classes would spark comments from me on family vacations to all over the country. Thanks to that class, I will forever remember that potatoes are grown in both Maine and the Red River Valley in MN/ND! Who knew? I didn’t at that time. He was a wonderful teacher and was excited about everything he taught.

  2. Leon Paparella says

    Marshall was a great friend through my childhood. He lived in my neighborhood in east providence and played basketball in my yard.

  3. Sabra Bailey Breslin says

    I was an English major, but took several of Marshall’s classes and LOVED them! He was not just a great teacher but an entertainer as well! He would jump up on his desk, jump up to grab a map to pull down and inspired a lifelong interest in maps and geography in me! I only regret that I didn’t take his class on historical geography ? which was in the summer and he took students across the US to see how geography impacted history. I have to say I came close to changing majors because of him. Condolences to his family.

  4. Lisa Barber says

    I had Professor Bowen in 2000 and 2001 for Eastern and Western U.S. Geography,. I never took notes, just listened intently and soaked as much knowledge as I could. He was an amazing story teller and his slides whisked you away as if you yourself had traveled there. His trio to Churchill, Canada has always stayed with me and is now on my bucket list. RIP Professor!

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