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William G. Bowen on Higher Education

William G. Bowen
William G. Bowen

The former president of Princeton University and of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who died on Thursday at the age of 83, was more than just an administrator of elite institutions.

A higher-education economist, he wrote or co-wrote a series of influential reports and books over a nearly 50-year span on the challenges facing colleges, including affirmative action, equity in admissions, technological change, and athletics priorities. And for decades he was a thoughtful, cordial source for reporters tackling a wide range of topics involving higher education.

He also wrote frequently for The Chronicle, including as recently as last year. Here’s a selection, along with our obituary and two appreciations of his accomplishments.

  • The Review

    Bill Bowen: Man of Achievement

    He was the most thoughtful and articulate voice on a host of educational issues.
  • The Review

    The Legacy of William Bowen

    He had enormous impact on higher education. But in his later years, his work on two of his great interests were especially influential.
  • William Bowen, Influential Higher-Ed Thinker and President of Princeton and Mellon, Dies at 83

    The former head of a top university and leading foundation in the arts also was a powerful thinker on a range of academic issues, including affirmative action, athletics priorities, and technological change.
  • Commentary

    The Painful Lessons of Sweet Briar and Cooper Union

    Hard decisions are getting even harder for boards to make, thanks to interference from donors, alumni, and local politicians.
  • Commentary

    Toward a Shared Vision of Shared Governance

    We need new ways, maybe even radically new ways, of bringing together faculty members and administrators to find solutions that will cut across old boundaries.
  • Commentary

    Walk Deliberately, Don’t Run, Toward Online Education

    Let’s experiment, but in assessing outcomes and cost savings, let’s also insist on hard evidence.
  • Point of View

    To Craft Higher-Education Policy, Start by Finding the Facts

    Don’t just make assumptions about topics like affirmative action. The data are out there.
  • The Review

    Helping Students Finish the 4-Year Run

    Colleges and policy makers must do more to get students across the finish line in a timely way.
  • The Review

    The Successful Succession

    How to manage the process of picking a president.
  • News

    From ‘Bastions of Privilege’ to ‘Engines of Opportunity’

    If America’s leading colleges are to continue that progress, complementing affirmative action with a “thumb on the scale” for academically qualified but socioeconomically disadvantaged students seems the appropriate next step.
  • The Review

    Revisiting ‘The Game of Life': Athletics at Elite Colleges

    Difficult decisions must be made about the rationing of academic and athletic opportunities, the scale and financial cost of athletic programs, and the role of athletics in the educational experience. Those decisions will become ever more difficult.
  • The Review

    Race-Sensitive Admissions: Back to Basics

    It would be perverse in the extreme if, after many generations when race was used in the service of blatant discrimination, colleges were now to be prevented from considering race at all, when, at last, we are learning how to use nuanced forms of race-sensitive admissions to improve education for everyone and to diminish racial disparities.
  • News

    How the Playing Field Is Encroaching on the Admissions Office

    A failure to see where the intensification of athletics programs is taking us, and to adjust expectations, could have the unintended consequence of allowing intercollegiate athletics to become less and less relevant to the educational experiences of most students, and more and more at odds with the core missions of colleges themselves.
  • News

    Escalating Costs of Doing Science

    A non-trivial share of responsibility for increases in tuition over the last decade can be attributed to large increases in expenditures for science from unrestricted university funds.
  • News

    Colleges Must Be Able to Designate Aid for Minority Students

    Radically new policies should be imposed from outside only when there is compelling evidence that existing programs are clearly inequitable and that new policies will prove to be demonstrably superior in practice.