Turning Tragedy into Purpose

Derrick Bowman’s Journey to University College Assisted by Osher New Beginnings Scholarship

Brunswick, Maine – Derrick Bowman experienced a tragic loss that forever changed him. It now propels him forward as the recipient of an Osher New Beginnings Scholarship which is helping to make his transition back to collegiate studies possible.

Simply put: Derrick Bowman is a man on a mission.

A carpenter by trade throughout his adult life, Bowman attended college in Florida at a traditional age from 1994 to 1996. He was highly successful. As a gifted and driven student with a 3.64 grade point average, Bowman joined Phi Theta Kappa, the world’s largest and most prestigious honor society for two-year college students.

Though he was progressing smoothly to a career in pediatrics, family circumstances that required his full attention led Bowman to put his college career on hold. He eventually followed his brother to Maine and now considers the state his permanent home.

Bowman’s college aspirations remained on hold until the summer of 2015 when he visited University College’s Bath/Brunswick Center in Brunswick, one of eight local Centers in communities across Maine. He began exploring the possibilities to earn his Bachelor’s degree.

A Supportive Environment, Exceptional Academic Advising

The first point of contact for Bowman was Shelly Taylor, Student Services Coordinator at the Bath/Brunswick Center. He credits her with a level of service that exceeded any reasonable expectation for guidance that he might have initially had. She was simply amazing, Bowman says.

Given his background, Taylor and Center Director Dennis Unger felt that Bowman would be a strong candidate for an Osher New Beginnings Scholarship.

Student Success Story: Derrick Bowman

The University of Maine System is offering Osher New Beginnings Scholarships to encourage more Maine people of all ages to give college a try.

The Osher New Beginnings Scholarship was established for those who are first time college students or have not attended college in five or more years and have completed thirty or fewer successful credit hours. An Osher Scholarship will cover the cost of tuition, fees and books for one course. Students do not need to be accepted to a degree program to be eligible to receive an Osher New Beginnings Scholarship.

As an established Maine resident with a high school diploma who had not attended college for over five years, Bowman fit the scholarship criteria to apply.

Bowman was able to successfully transfer his community college credits and did not exceed the maximum 30 credits to qualify.

The application process clearly established the depth of Bowman’s commitment to earning a Bachelor’s degree. His motivation for returning to complete his college education in mid-life proved to both gripping and unassailable. The narrative that he offers to frame the focus of his life is tragic, harrowing, and ultimately inspirational.

Bowman’s New Beginning, A Legacy Honored

When Bowman began his first course during the Fall Semester at the Bath/Brunswick Center, he brought with him a host of memories, the support of his entire family, and the legacy of Jessica, the daughter he lost at age 14 to suicide on November 19, 2013. His biggest fan and supporter is his daughter Ashlee, 20, a college student at the University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville.

Bowman suffered a tragedy that few can easily grasp. The loss of his daughter led him to pursue intensive therapy. It was the healthiest decision he could have made, one that would coalesce deep grief into committed action.

While in therapy Bowman explored the circumstances of his daughter’s life leading to her suicide.
“She was dealing with a lot (at the time of her death),” Bowman said. “It must have been so hard for her.”

So was dealing with life after her passing. However, Bowman sensed that he would be led to a new life’s calling, a greater purpose. Slowly, that picture came into focus. From the depths of tragedy came the resolution to develop a new life in service to others.

He first persevered to understand, process, and accept what could not be undone. Life had forever changed for Bowman, that was clear enough, but finding the way forward in order to best serve humanity became the compass for his journey.

Though difficult as a whole, the therapeutic process proved both eye opening and empowering. It helped him to see his possibilities, including the choices that he could make that involved career changes.

The Calling Comes Into Focus, Opportunity Takes Shape

“My therapist felt that I am well suited to a career in the mental health field,” Bowman said. “She encouraged me to go back to school.”

Bowman is grateful for the opportunity that the Osher New Beginnings Scholarship has given to him. It is the beginning of achieving his life’s work, reaching those who are experiencing the kind of pain and hopelessness that Jessica went through before it is too late. Jessica cannot return, but many, many others will recover, live, and love thanks to the right kind of intervention. That is a thought that is always present for Bowman, and one that drives him to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

Though a new student at the Bath/Brunswick Center, Bowman is active in suicide prevention efforts, both at the Center and in the community.

For the time being Bowman is continuing work as a carpenter while also pursuing his studies. He hopes to follow the path before him wherever it leads, including graduate work or a terminal degree.

“I am getting my feet wet again (in college),” Bowman said, taking the one course. “It has been a while since I have had a goal in my life. I feel like I have a calling and I want to answer it.”

He shakes his head slightly, then nods and chuckles.
“After so many years away from college, here I am,” he stated. “Now, it is time to get things done.