When Ursuline Sister Vivian Bowles was president of Brescia University, she established the Distinguished Alumni Award to honor those graduates who exemplify the elements that encompass The Brescia Difference.
On Sept. 20, Sister Vivian will come full circle when she is one of three people named a distinguished graduate of the university the Ursuline Sisters began in 1950.
“I feel honored, but I never thought I would be chosen for the award,” Sister Vivian said. “I accept the honor in the name of all our alumni. All of them are distinguished in their own way.”
The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest award the university bestows. The ceremony takes place at Owensboro’s RiverPark Center as part of Homecoming week at Brescia, the only Catholic university in the Diocese of Owensboro. Also honored that evening will be Art Ealum, a 2006 graduate who is chief of the Owensboro Police Department, and Rick Higdon, class of 1986, who is an executive director at Ernst and Young and a member of the Brescia Board of Trustees.
Sister Vivian is a 1969 graduate of Brescia. She first began ministering at Brescia in 1973, teaching education classes and supervising secondary student teachers. After a couple of years, she helped develop the psychology department and served as a professor of psychology and director of the Counseling Center until 1995, with a year off in 1981-82 to complete her doctoral studies. She has a doctorate in both counseling psychology and education.
In 1980 she was named division chair of social and behavioral sciences, a position she held until 1992, when she was elected to the Mount Saint Joseph leadership Council, serving until 1996.
In 1995 she was named the fourth president of Brescia, where she served until 2007. It was during Sister Vivian’s tenure that Brescia College received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities to become Brescia University on June 1, 1998.
Prior to coming to Brescia, she was an elementary school teacher from 1960-73 at four Kentucky schools. She left Brescia in 2007 to enter into family ministry, then in 2010-11 she served a year as director of the St. Mary School System in Paducah, Ky. In 2012, she began her current ministry as director of faith formation at St. Alphonsus Parish in St. Joseph, Ky.
Sister Vivian, a native of Jeffersontown, Ky., has been an Ursuline Sister for 56 years, entering as a novice in 1958. She served on many community boards, including the Owensboro-Daviess County Airport Board, the U.S. Bank Regional Board of Directors, the Diocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board and the Owensboro Municipal Planning Commission. She was the first woman to serve on the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, from 1983-2007.
The Distinguished Alumni Award honors those graduates who exemplify the elements that encompass The Brescia Difference: Respect for the Sacred, Devotion to Learning, Commitment to Growth in Virtue and Promotion of Servant Leadership. Because of the breadth and scope of their life’s work, the magnitude of their impact on the regional, national and often international scene and their examples of service and leadership, alumni who receive this esteemed honor have distinguished themselves among their peers and demonstrated that they are true stars of Brescia.
Other Ursuline Sisters who have been honored with this award include Sister Ruth Gehres, Sister Michele Morek, Sister Joseph Angela Boone, Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan and Sister Dianna Ortiz. One of last year’s recipients was Ursuline Associate Mary Danhauer.
Sister Sharon receives Father Saffer Award
The Father Saffer Award is given to an alumnus based on a lifetime of personal or professional achievement that personifies the ideas and basic mission of Brescia University, said Jason Cox, alumni director. The Alumni Board nominates individuals and then narrows the choices to three people. The Alumni Board then discusses further and puts the three people to a vote. It is through this vote that they pick the winners of the Outstanding Alumnus and Father Saffer Awards. Jim Weafer will be honored as the Outstanding Alumnus.
Sister Sharon graduated from Brescia in 1975 with a certification as a special education teacher. She joined the Ursuline Sisters in 1982 and became director of residential life at Brescia from 1984-87, and began teaching special education courses part time. She became a full-time professor in 1987, and other than three years spent completing her doctorate in special education, she served continuously at Brescia as a professor, department chair and finally academic dean until 2010. That’s when she began serving as congregational leader of the Ursuline Sisters, a position in which she currently serves. She also serves on the Brescia Board of Trustees.