Northern icon and benefactor dies at 92

NW Staff and NW Staff

Former NMU secretary Jeannette Bowden, 92, died Sunday, Sept. 16 at Marquette General Hospital.

She was born on October 9, 1914 in Bessemer. She enrolled at Northern State Teacher’s College (now NMU) in September 1934 and was graduated with honors in June 1936, receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree and Life Certificate.

While attending Northern, she worked part-time as a student assistant in the Office of the President, and one month before commencement, was asked to take over the duties as secretary to the president until a permanent replacement could be found.

Shortly after, then-president, Webster H. Pearce offered her the position permanently and she began her career as secretary to five successive presidents: Webster H. Pearce, Henry A. Tape, Edgar L. Harden, Ogden E. Johnson and John X. Jamrich.

Bowden’s 44 and one-half year tenure at Northern is longer than any other in the history of the institution.

In 1971, Northern honored her by naming her the recipient of the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award. In 1974, she was named Executive Assistant to the President, and on her retirement in November 1980, Northern’s Board of Control awarded her the title of Emeritus Executive Assistant to the President.

A lover of music, Bowden underwrote the funding of a Walker Organ which is located in the Reynolds Recital Hall on campus. She was also a strong supporter of Public Television, and underwrote a substantial gift to WNMU-TV and WNMU-FM, with the station’s naming the “Jeannette Bowden Studios” in her honor.

Funeral services were held at the Fassbender Funeral Home on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 4 p.m with Rev. Ben Bohnsack officiating. There will be no prior visitation. Entombment will be made at the Northland Chapel Gardens Mausoleum.

Memorials may be directed to the First United Methodist Church, the Marquette County Humane Society, or WNMU-TV..

Dr. Jamrich, who is retired and living in Florida, said in a statement, “Mrs. Jamrich and I are saddened at the loss of a dear friend and colleague in Jeannette Bowden. Her devotion to Northern over 44 years, and its development from a teacher’s college into a comprehensive university, was unstinting and indeed, legendary. She was a mentor to countless students, and a valued confidant to me and four other presidents.”

Condolences may be expressed online at

— Fossbender Funeral Home