Did any of the Ursuline sisters have an influence on her decision making process?
“Yes, there were three,” recalls Sister Vivian. “My principal Sister Joseph Therese (Thompson), my violin teacher Sister Mary Ivo (Thompson) and my freshman home room teacher and Latin teacher, Sister Lennora (Carrico).
“Sister Mary Ivo, the poor thing. I have no music talent, but I took music and I studied hard because I loved Sister Mary Ivo.
“Sister Lennora would come down to recreation and play Canasta with us. To see the fun side of her I started feeling more and more comfortable with the Ursulines.”
“There were two other Ursuline sisters I always looked up to all my life,” says Sister Vivian. “Mother Teresita (Thompson) and Sister Mary Celeste (McCue). They didn’t teach me. I had family connections with Mother Teresita and knew her from the time I was a child. I always respected her and felt so encouraged by her as I did by Sister Mary Celeste, who was the postmaster. She took an interest in many of us as students and gave her time to us and would listen to us.”
Sister Vivian entered the novitiate at Mount Saint Joseph in the fall following her graduation from high school and began taking Brescia College classes at the Mount.
She began her teaching career in 1960 at Saint Pius X, teaching “the whole curriculum” to third and fourth graders for five years. She then taught English to fifth and sixth graders for four years and served as sponsor of the new school newspaper, produced by eighth graders.
It was on to Saint Joseph School in Leitchfield, teaching third, fourth and fifth graders for two years and then to Saint Thomas More in Paducah for five years, teaching “a huge fourth grade class” for one year and then seven and eighth graders for four years. Then it was back to Owensboro and Immaculate School, teaching seventh and eighth graders and serving as counselor for two years, her last years teaching grade school.
In 1973, she came to Brescia as a counselor and a teacher in the education department. After two years, Brescia initiated a psychology program and a formal counseling center, and Sister Vivian served a number of years as professor of psychology and director of the counseling center.
In 1980 she was named division chair of the social and behavioral sciences, a position she held until 1992, when she was elected to the Mount Saint Joseph Leadership Team, serving under leadership director Sister Mary Matthias Ward. She served on the leadership team until 1996.
In September of 1995 Sister Vivian Marie Bowles was named president of Brescia University, a position she still holds today.
Those who have worked with her at Brescia have been impressed with her leadership.
“Sister Vivian spends almost every waking hour working to improve and grow the university,” says Dale Cecil, vice president of business and finance. “I doubt there is any other president in higher education or industry that is more dedicated than Sister Vivian. She has a tremendous responsibility and the extremely difficult task of making tough decisions for the future of Brescia University faced with the divergent opinions of students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, and trustees.”