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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mailman leaves his mark through work and performance

Published: September 28, 2012
Section: Features, Top Stories

As generations of students pass through the university, Bill Bowen, the musically talented mail clerk, remains one of the most memorable staff members on campus. Having been employed at Brandeis since March of 1979, Bowen’s optimistic persona and singing performances remain a constant amidst the inevitably evolving culture of the university.

Born and raised in the housing projects of Waltham, Bowen was the second born of five children. Reflecting that his interest in singing and performing was sparked at an early age, he said, “As a kid I practically drove my parents out of the house with music.” During his youth, he recalled performing small plays and singing for the entertainment of the other children in the housing projects.

“I remember coming down the stairs with a bow on and fringe singing the Naughty Lady of Shady Lane to all the kids in the neighborhood,” he said.

Tracing his initial involvement in theatrical performances to elementary school, Bowen recalled playing the part of a witch in a school production. Although other students jested, “Billy was in a dress,” he simply stated, “Well guess what, the witch was a woman.”

Even as a young child, Bowen’s adoration of performing was clear, and teachers began to recognize his natural abilities.

As an interest that would transcend his childhood years to become an integral aspect of his adult life, Bowen’s love of performing soon manifested itself in the production of radio programs as well. During his senior year in high school, he first became interested in a radio program broadcasted at Brandeis University. With the collaborative effort of a close friend, Bowen proceeded to run the program titled “Your mother should know,” for the next 10 years, marking his initial involvement with the university. As a host of the show, he interviewed a variety of famous actors, comedians and band members for his broadcasts.

Continuing to engage in theater and radio productions within the Boston area, Bowen further appeared in commercial ads for General Electric before assuming his position as a mail clerk at Brandeis in March of 1979.

Acknowledging the technological innovations that have impacted his profession, he said, “I used to say years ago, people always need to send out mail. So I’m kind of like a monopoly on campus, but not anymore with the Internet. Although, I do see a lot more packages.”

Beyond technological advancements, Bowen has witnessed the evolving nature of the atmosphere on campus. Citing the increased diversification of the student body, including the increasing number of international students and students of color. He said, “I love seeing the constant change in people over the years.”

Equipped with a sense of humor, Bowen remarked that the most fascinating aspect of his job is Fred George, a fellow staff member in mail services who broadcasts the radio program titled “On the Street.” Expanding upon this, he proceeded to attribute the most rewarding aspect of his job as the interactions he has with both students and his fellow staff members, including Fred George and Josh Matta. Due to his optimistic persona, students often linger at the mailroom to confide their problems to Bowen, leading to the development of friendships that prevail past graduation.

Bowen traces his optimistic personality to his mother: “It was part of my makeup growing up. My mother was the same way; she never really had a bad mood, or if she did, kept it to herself.”

Having performed on campus in the past for events such as Springfest and Culture X, Bowen is currently embarking on the 50th anniversary of his singing career, which initiated in 1962. Although he displays a passion for all musical genres, ranging from country to pop, he recognizes Michael Bublé and John Pizzarelli, a renowned jazz guitarist and singer, as his singing idols.

Bowen expressed his continued fondness for Brandeis. “I have no desire to leave yet. I’ve been here so long, they’ll probably name a monument after me or something. I’ve been very happy here over the years.”