Bowman Breakfast celebrate 50th anniversary with Record-Courier editor


Roger Di Paolo, editor of The Record-Courier, speaks at the annual Bowman Breakfast on April 16 in the ballroom. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Lyndsey Schley

Record-Courier Editor Roger Di Paolo delivered a speech titled “Beyond Audacity: Celebrating 21st-Century Kent” at the spring 2013 Bowman Breakfast 7 a.m. Tuesday in the Kent State Ballroom.

Lori Wemhoff, executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, announced the university and the city of Kent received the first annual Larry Abernathy Award from the International Town-Gown Association. The award will be presented June 5 at the annual ITGA conference in Buffalo, N.Y., Wemhoff said.

“Nurturing Town-Gown ties on a regular basis for 50 years is indeed something to celebrate,” DiPaolo said. “President Bowman transformed what was essentially a teacher-training college in 1944 when he became president into a major state university. He made a conscious effort to interact with the Kent community and he encouraged the campus community to follow his example. Sustaining this series named in his honor for a half of a century and gathering here regularly 300 strong is an apt tribute to him.”

The bi-annual Bowman Breakfast has brought together the university, the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce and Kent community members since President George Bowman started it in 1963, Di Paolo said.

“The Bowman Breakfast celebrates the town and gown relationship of the city of Kent and Kent State University,” Wemhoff said. “ It’s nice when we talk about how successful this relationship has grown over the years, but I think it means even a little bit more when someone else notices. This honor belongs to everyone here who has assisted in one way or another to strengthen the successful relationship between the city and the university.”

Di Paolo spoke on the power of audacity and how it has helped Kent grow in the past few years.

“What a difference a bit of time, a lot of money, a huge dose of confidence, and a few prayers makes,” Di Paolo said. “We are the poster child for economic revitalization in the face of the worst recession in our memory. We are the Cinderella city. It wouldn’t exist without all of us, nor would it exist without the belief that things can change for the better, as audacious as that may be.”

Di Paolo reflected on the past prosperity in Kent in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Downtown Kent was a thriving retail center with parking problems,” DiPaolo said. “I remember the feeling of neighborliness, community and small-town comfort you experienced when you shopped in downtown Kent or did business there. When I read stories about the Kent Chamber of the 1950s and the 1960s, I’m struck by the can-do attitude that seemed so evident. They realized no business community can thrive in isolation. Cooperation is key.”

Today’s spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm is especially exciting because there were times when it almost absent, Di Paolo said.

“I remember what Kent was like 30 years ago when I worked downtown,” Di Paolo said. “There were vacant storefronts all along Main Street. I could walk in the middle of it at the noon hour without ever worrying about traffic. We were asleep for a very, very long time until we finally realized that we needed to wake up or perish.”

Kent needs to continue focusing on its current prosperity and avoid letting itself get into another economic slump, Di Paolo said.

“We need to celebrate and thank those who took a leap of faith and invested their time and their treasure in our hometown,” Di Paolo said. “We also need to remember those who stuck with downtown Kent for so many years when there wasn’t a great deal to celebrate and we need, above all, to ignore those who still seem to revel in failure. We listened to them for too long and they paralyzed us for nearly 40 years. We’re not going back to sleep again.”

Contact Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].