By Kristin Johnson
Bob Bowlsby isn’t exactly sure how he ended up at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He grew up over 500 miles away, in Waterloo, Iowa. After competing on his high school wrestling team, he began looking for a place to continue his career and get an education. He was approached by then-coach Bill Garland about wrestling for the Dragons. Bob jumped at this opportunity and never looked back.
Although he knew no one, except for Coach Garland, it didn’t seem to phase him. “I remember my mom and dad dropping me off,” he said. “My mom shed a few tears, and it was kind of curious to me why she was crying.” It turns out, he was the eldest of five children, and the first to go to college. Though his parents were apprehensive about their son’s future, Bob knew he was in the right place. “Everything and everyone was new, but I didn’t really think about being scared or nervous too much,” he said.
MSUM was a great decision for Bob. He continued his success on the wrestling mat, becoming a captain, four-year letter winner and won the NIC title at 167 pounds his senior year. He also joined the Old Order of the Owls, where he became the president and met life-long friends. He graduated with a health and physical education degree in 1975, but most importantly, he met his future wife. Candice (Lapash) was a Moorhead native and was studying elementary education at MSUM. The two fell in love and were married in the Newman Center on campus.
Bob went on to have a very successful career. He obtained a master’s degree, and after working as athletic director for several colleges, he became the Big 12 Conference Commissioner in 2012. Not only does this mean an impressive resume, but it means Bob and Candice are in a position to give back, something they always hoped they’d be in a position to do.
Because of their experiences, friendships, and memories, MSUM has become a significant place for Bob and his wife. “As our family grew, wherever we were living, we always got back to Moorhead regularly. Both of us got a terrific education at MSUM. We came in contact with great faculty mentors, and we believe in the transformative power of the institution. MSUM has a very fond place in our hearts.”
The transformative impact MSUM had on him and his wife inspired the Bowlsbys to donate to their alma mater. They created the Candice & Robert Bowlsby Wrestling Scholarship, helping young athletes, like Bob once was, fulfill their dreams to keep competing and learning. In addition to athletics, they have chosen to give to other areas on campus as well, including the current campaign to build an Alumni Center.
Over the years, Bob has had great mentors who have shown him the importance of being generous. He hopes he can be an example to others who would like to make an impact. “Private support is the difference between being average and reaching a threshold of excellence,” he said. “With funding declining, now more than ever, private support is needed. For me, I want to support an institution that’s been good to my family.”