Sister Vivian Bowles was in the eighth grade at St. Edward School in the Louisville suburbs when her teacher, Ursuline Sister Joseph Mark Hayden, told the class that the Ursulines were moving their junior college to Owensboro. The Sisters needed tables and chairs for the library, Sister Joseph Mark said.
“I think I contacted every relative and neighbor I had, and we got our tables and chairs before any other elementary school,” Sister Vivian said.
It may have been her first fundraising effort for Brescia College, but it was hardly her last. Sister Vivian recounted that story on June 30, 2023, before a roomful of well-wishers at Brescia’s Moore Center who were on hand for the renaming of the campus’ Academic Mall in her honor.
“The Academic Mall was Sister Vivian’s brainchild,” Brescia President Father Larry Hostetter said. “Today we dedicate it to Sister Vivian, who served as president from 1995-2007. She helped re-energize Brescia University. We stand on her shoulders and the shoulders of all of the Sisters who served as president of this university,” Father Larry said. “She envisioned Brescia beyond a small regional university, that it could have a larger impact.”
Brescia became a university during Sister Vivian’s tenure, but it is perhaps the physical changes she oversaw that are her legacy.
From the time the Ursulines began buying property on Seventh Street in 1950 to open Brescia until Sister Vivian arrived as president, the street had split the campus in half. Sister Vivian led the effort to ask the city of Owensboro to close Seventh Street and allow the Academic Mall to bring the campus together. Later, she also had Eighth Street closed through the campus.
“It was said at the time that students made up their minds in the first three minutes about a campus,” Sister Vivian told the crowd. “I knew that if they came and didn’t find a campus, they would leave. The alumni probably closed Seventh Street more than I did. They packed the hall.”
Today, an archway proclaiming Brescia University leads visitors through a brick lined mall that will now have a plaque honoring Sister Vivian, a 1969 graduate, for her commitment to Brescia.
One of her closest friends, Larry O’Bryan, served on the Brescia Board of Trustees for 27 years, with four of those years as president during Sister Vivian’s tenure.
“Under her leadership, Brescia was the place to go to get a quality Catholic education,” O’Bryan said. “She started a beautification project which included the quad, the fountain, a chapel renovation, banners on the buildings and her work to close Seventh Street. She built Young Hall and bought properties to enlarge the campus.”
Sister Vivian became emotional during the ceremony each time she talked about the Brescia alumni.
“I didn’t do any of this by myself,” she said. “Please continue your cooperation and contributions to Brescia. Brescia and the Mount are my family.”
Here are some pictures from the day.