By Shari Goldstein Stern
A teacher’s job is enormous, whether he or she has an overflowing classroom or an average number of students. Either way, teachers would be hard pressed to find enough hours in most days to give uninterrupted, quality time to any one student. Volunteers in schools are big-hearted with their time and attention and can make a big difference in a child’s education.
Dedicated volunteer Bob Bowser gives generously of his time and compassion to Reinhardt Elementary School students who are eager to learn and welcome the individual attention.
Formerly a Denver resident, the 93-year-old settled in Dallas in 1961. He holds a degree in petroleum engineering with an extensive career in the industry, including some years in Venezuela.
Bowser retired from engineering in 1987 and has since worked as a house painter. “That’s a trade I learned from my father who was a master painter,” he said. He later became a bookkeeper for a structural engineering company. “I finally retired from everything in 1995,” he quipped.
In addition to volunteering for Reinhardt, a ministry of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bowser gives time to another of the church’s ministries at the White Rock Center of Hope (WRCH). He’s been a WRCH volunteer for 25 years and has just started his seventh year as Reinhardt tutor.
He said, “I help first- and second-grade students with math, science and reading. At my age it is exciting to have some place where I can still be useful.” Rumor has it he’s even been known to help lucky students bake a cookie or two.
The volunteer added: “The first year at Reinhardt, I tutored a second-grade girl in math and science. Like many of her classmates, she came from a single-parent home. The class project one day was to make a Father’s Day card. She gave hers to me. I was deeply touched, and still have the card displayed on my refrigerator. I only spend one hour a week at Reinhardt, but it makes a big difference in my life, and I hope for the students.”
According to Ellen Gutt, counselor at Reinhardt who coordinates volunteers: “Mr. Bowser has the patience and gentle soul of a grandfather yet is tech savvy as well. He can go from tutoring with a book to his iPad in an instant, quickly engaging his students with tutoring software.”
Gutt said the school has approximately 30 volunteers at any given time, not including room parents, who cumulatively give about 50 hours a week.
“The longest-tenured volunteer has been here about 10 years,” the counselor said. “She began volunteering when her child was in pre-kindergarten. He is now in eighth grade.”
Bowser was married to Virginia Wascher, who passed away in 2005. He has two children, five grandsons, three of whom are married, and four great-grandchildren. He said, “I didn’t want to leave Denver, but the job market wasn’t great. Now I’m very happy to be a Texan.”