SPC celebrates its 118th birthday by opening an exhibit honoring founder Artemsia Bowden.
By R. Eguia
St. Philip’s College celebrated its 118th birthday Tuesday at the library in the center for learning resources building during the opening reception of an exhibit dedicated to the college’s founding president called “The Many Contributions of Artemisia Bowden.”
The day kicked off Women’s History Month and marked the ninth year Adena Williams Loston served as college president.
“Working to form a more perfect union: honoring women in public service and government” is the college’s National Women’s History Project theme this year.
Loston said the theme is beautifully exemplified by the life of Artemisia Bowden, which will be on display in the library for the entire month of March.
“Women’s work, often unpaid, is undervalued and overlooked,” Loston said.
Dr. Angela McPherson Williams, director of student life, invited guests to write their own “I am woman” affirmations on two white display boards next to the 118th birthday cake.
Affirmations included, “I am unique. I am strong. I am different.”
Loston said, “There is a lot of women power here. We strive to be powerful, strong, determined, committed, persevering and dedicated like Ms. Bowden.”
Bowden served the college for 52 years and was added to “Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints” by the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church last year.
Loston said she wants students to appreciate that the college began as a sewing class for black girls in 1897.
Bowden’s personal diaries were on display in glass cases throughout the library. The curated diary pages documented the founders experience beginning in 1902.
One entry showed a young Bowden pictured with three girls in matching drapey dance outfits. The group was called the SPC quartet and they toured to raise money to support the college in the early 1900s.
Loston said Bowden deserves the title “savior of St. Philip’s” because she found ways to keep the school open after the Episcopal Church withdrew its financial support.
“To raise funds, she took a quartet of singing students around the country. She bartered chickens and eggs. She discontinued taking a salary and brought her relatives to teach at no cost,” Loston said.
The school moved to the East Side in 1917 from a building in La Villita. By 1927, SPC was a junior college.
“Our highest ambition is to send from our institution true, God-fearing women, who are not ashamed of the truth and whose characters are spotless,” Bowden wrote in a 1904 report.
Astronomy freshman Amber Gutierrez viewed the Bowden exhibition and enjoyed the quotes about making dreams come true.
Gutierrez wants to be an astronaut.
“People say it’s not likely, but it’s my passion,” she said. “Everything feels right when I put this goal into perspective. I want to be on the mission to Mars. Astronauts have to be fearless.”
A recorded performance of a dramatic play depicting Bowden’s life accomplishments was presented on a projector during the opening of the exhibition.
“Not many people will go to that level,” Loston said. “It shows that no goal is insurmountable. It shows how you can overcome a roadblock because Ms. Bowden had many.”