Nathan Bower, a professor in the Chemistry Department, is retiring this year after 40 years of teaching.
During his time at Colorado College, he has produced over 55 publications, working with an average of two to four undergraduate students per year. In 2014, Bower received the lifetime Achievement Award from the Colorado Section of the American Chemistry Society for his publications and vast impact on students.
“Nate was always lively in his teaching,” said sophomore Carl Anderson, who had Professor Bower for Organic Chemistry 2. “I really liked that he would give great hands on demonstrations during lectures.”
When Bower first started teaching at CC in 1977, the school year had nine blocks, and he was required to teach all of them. Despite a lack of startup funding and the discouragement of applying for external grants, he established a sustainable research program that led to the production of so many publications with undergraduate students.
Professor Bower effectively taught chemistry at all levels. In a letter of recommendation for the Lifetime Achievement Award, Chemistry Department Chair Murphy Brasuel wrote, “In his teaching Nate brings in questions and challenges from forensic science, art, art history, and history that are solvable through chemistry.”
By presenting interdisciplinary questions to students in introductory courses, Professer Bower assured that critical thinking was at the core of the curriculum for Chemistry and Biochemistry majors. Of the courses he taught, his favorite was Introduction to Instrumental Methods, an upper level course that examined the principles and theory of modern instrumental analysis.
“At the upper level end,” said Bower, “I find I really get to learn myself about my field while still doing the teaching end of things.”
Throughout his years at CC, he has seen changes in the student body and the school. In the late 1980s, he would encourage, and sometimes even force skeptical students to use new technology. This is in stark contrast of the current student population, consisting of technological virtuosos due to an upbringing with advanced technology.
Because of the familiarity with technology, Professor Bower believes that students are better than they used to be at communicating and working in groups. However, he also thinks that technology has led to decreased independence.
“The ability to then stand on your own and think on your own and particularly think quantitatively, I think, is less than it used to be,” said Bower. “So that is worrisome to me in my field, because we need to be able to quantify the environmental problems and so forth.”
He has also seen the school become more bureaucratic and corporate than it used to be, noting a parallel trend with the government. Because of this, however, the opportunities and services provided to students are also greater than they used to be.
Some of his fondest memories have been those that involve lasting relationships with students. “One favorite memory was my first advisee coming in and sitting down. I didn’t know how to advise, and he didn’t know what he was getting into,” said Bower. “We became great friends, I go to his house and visit with his kids… he and his wife had me for Thanksgiving.”
Despite his retirement, he will have six to ten more papers to publish in the next few years. Other plans include investing more time in hobbies such as painting, something that he has always enjoyed.
Reflecting on his overall experience, he enjoyed his time at Colorado College, despite the intensity involved with teaching on the block plan and his lack of sick days.