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ISU first lady who helped develop the Stephens Performing Arts Center dies

Pocatello

The following is a news release and photo from Idaho State University.

BOISE — Connie Bowen, a former Idaho State University first lady whose efforts helped bring the dream of the Stephens Performing Arts Center to fruition, died Friday. She was living in Boise at the time of her death.

Connie’s husband, Richard, served as Idaho State’s president from 1985 to 2005. During their two decades of leadership, Connie focused her efforts on building relationships with the community.

“Idaho State is the university it is today because of the commitment, hard work, and passion of the Bowens,” said President Kevin Satterlee. “Connie will be fondly remembered for how she worked tirelessly, often behind the scenes, to support our students. Her dedication increased the prestige of our University.”

During the Bowens’ time at Idaho State, Connie personally brought several projects to completion, including the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center, a project that was near to her heart as a former dancer. The unique design of the Stephens Performing Arts Center was a result of Connie’s influence and dedication. When architects presented their first design, Connie asked them to try again. She believed the new building should be an inspiration to the University and the entire region. Her special touch was evident at every stage, from fundraising and interior design to the venue’s opening gala.

bowen fam
The Bowen Family outside the Servel House. | ISU

One of Connie’s important roles as first lady was cultivating relationships. She often shared her home with legislators, dignitaries, and community members. Connie’s sense of fun could convince even the most sober guests to participate in her party games. She was known for her skilled event planning like the 2003 groundbreaking for the Rendezvous Complex resembled a traditional rendezvous–complete with invitations wrapped in oilcloth, mountain men reenactments, and Shoshone-Bannock dancers.

“Connie spent untold hours planning events and other special projects for the University,” said Libby Howe, who worked closely with Connie as the former Director of University Relations. “She was extremely talented and was able to find just the right touches to bring any event to life. Her countless hours of effort and dedication were all volunteered — completely out of devotion to Idaho State University. She never received a single dollar of compensation. Imagine, 20 years of devoted volunteer service, and for that, our entire Bengal family is immensely grateful.”

Connie believed in the importance of celebrating the University’s history. Concerned that people would forget the significance of Swanson Arch, the entrance to the University’s first building, she implemented the tradition of March Through The Arch, where freshmen students march onto campus through the Swanson Arch, then again off campus at graduation to signify their journey out into the world. The tradition carries on today, with hundreds of students marching through Swanson Arch each year.

The Bowens were awarded the Presidential Medallion during Idaho State University’s Homecoming in 2019, an award they originally created to honor others. When they received the award, Connie recalled what it meant to be Idaho State’s first lady.

“It was a privilege to work alongside my husband and have the opportunity to serve the wonderful students, staff and people of this state,” Connie said. “It was their individual stories that touched our hearts and provided focus to the importance of our duties.”

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