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Dr. Ray Bowman

Ray Bowman headshotIs there one event that's most memorable for you during your time at UNF?  

The recognition of the Natural Trails by the U.S. Department of the Interior on July 10, 1978. I had led the re-configuration of the nature trails from blazed trails in the woods to a self-guiding, educational system with a common trailhead. 

Dr. Ray Bowman 

Director, UNF Environmental Center 

Chemistry professor 



What have you learned from students over your years at UNF?

From the early students whose average age was about the same as the founding faculty average age, I learned how to focus my lectures on relevant material. I also learned to be very efficient in my use of class time.


After UNF added freshman and sophomore classes (1984), I learned to be more tolerant of student indifference to education and to be more engaging in classrooms and laboratories. As a premed adviser in the 1990s and early 2000s, I learned to appreciate the high intelligence, strong motivation and depth of character of some of our best students.

What were you doing just prior to coming to UNF?

Postdoctoral appointment — California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

How have students changed over the last 35 years?

They are much younger, on average less motivated, and a good bit less mature.  However, our best students now are among the best we have ever had.  UNF is attracting more of the very best students who could attend older institutions with more established reputations.  The students we graduate, who attend post baccalaureate programs, report that they are as well prepared for their post-baccalaureate studies as students who graduated from some of the most prestigious universities in the United States.

What was your favorite year at UNF and why?

Probably 2006-07 when I had a chance to lead the new Environmental Center and begin to make a real difference in how UNF responds to environmental challenges.

How would describe the physical growth on campus over the last 35 years?


How will you keep UNF in your life and heart after you retire?

UNF will always be in my heart.  Whether it’s in my life is up to UNF.

What special relationships have you formed with students as a result of your tenure here?

Several have become close friends…very close.

What are the biggest challenges on campus today compared to the biggest challenges on opening day, Oct. 2, 1972?

The challenge we met the first day was being ready for a small number of students. The biggest challenge today is similar, but on a much larger scale.  UNF seems often to be stretched to its limit to serve an ever-increasing number of students and an ever-increasing number of programs.

How has UNF impacted Jacksonville over the years, and how has Jacksonville impacted UNF?

Both have helped the other mature.

How did you find out about the opening at UNF?

Letter from Dr. Ed Healy (founding chair of the Department of Natural Sciences) to Dr. Robert Sinsheimer at Caltech.

What made you decide to come to UNF?

The opportunity to help build a new university.

What do you remember about the first day of classes?

The Friday before opening day, we received a shipment of all the glassware for the new science labs. We spent the weekend unloading boxes and placing the appropriate glassware in each student locker. On the first day, laboratories went well!

What kept you at UNF for so many years?

The opportunity to grow personally and professionally.

What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed at UNF?

In the early years, we all helped each other and knew each other. As the University grew, staff members began to interpret their jobs as regulating faculty instead of assisting them to comply with (necessary) UNF policies.

What the best thing (or things) about working at UNF?

The students.

What people do you remember the most during your years, and why are they so memorable?

Ed Healy, my first boss…a character and truth teller Roy Lassiter, first VP for Academic Affairs, for his vision, good humor, and common sense.


The founding faculty for their good will, high spirits, hard work and (with few exceptions) selfless efforts to build a university.

What have you done during your time at UNF that you are proudest of?