William G. Bowen

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William G. Bowen
William G. Bowen.jpg
17th President of Princeton University
In office
Preceded by Robert F. Goheen
Succeeded by Harold T. Shapiro
Personal details
Born (1933-10-06)October 6, 1933
Cincinnati, Ohio
Died October 20, 2016(2016-10-20) (aged 83)
Princeton, New Jersey

William Gordon Bowen (October 6, 1933 – October 20, 2016)[1] was President Emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation where he served as President from 1988 to 2006.[2] He was the president of Princeton University from 1972 to 1988.


William Bowen was born in 1933 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father was a calculator salesman.[3] Bowen attended Denison University, where he played championship tennis and was initiated into the Sigma Chi fraternity. He graduated from Denison in 1955 and from Princeton University in 1958, where he earned a PhD. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1958, specializing in labor economics.

In 1988, he left Princeton and joined The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where he created a research program to investigate doctoral education, collegiate admissions, independent research libraries, and charitable nonprofits in order to ensure that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's grants would be well-informed and more effective.

William Bowen was also partially responsible for JSTOR,[4] the Mellon International Dunhuang Archive, ARTstor, and Ithaka Harbors, Inc..

Bowen authored 19 books, including the Grawemeyer Award-winning The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions (co-authored with Derek Bok). One of his books, Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education (2005), was coauthored with Eugene M. Tobin and Martin A. Kurzweil. Bowen's study of graduation rates at public universities in the United States culminated in the book Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities[5] that was coauthored with Matthew M. Chingos and Michael S. McPherson.

Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead appointed him and Julius L. Chambers to evaluate the performance of Duke University's administration in handling the 2006 lacrosse team case.

Bowen died on October 20, 2016, fourteen days after his 83rd birthday, in Princeton, New Jersey, United States.

Positions held[edit]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2013, he received a 2012 National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.[6][7]

In 2008, he received the José Vasconcelos World Award of Education for his lifetime's work creating educational opportunities.[8]

In 2001, he received the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for his book written with Derek Bok, The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions.[9]


Academic offices
Preceded by
Robert F. Goheen
President of Princeton University
Succeeded by
Harold T. Shapiro
Preceded by
John Edward Sawyer
President of Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Succeeded by
Don Michael Randel