Saint Francis inherits $1 million gift

Thursday, April 21, 2005

James I. Bowman, the man who managed the start-up of the Procter & Gamble plant in Cape Girardeau 30 years ago, has left $1 million to Saint Francis Medical Center, the largest estate gift in the hospital's 130-year history.

On Wednesday, Bowman's attorney and bank officials presented the check to the Cape Girardeau Catholic hospital, which has established an endowment in Bowman's name that will be used to pay for equipment in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Bowman, who was a longtime supporter of the hospital, died last year. He was 74.

"We were overwhelmed by the generosity of Mr. Bowman," said hospital president and CEO Steven C. Bjelich. "His gift will allow us to continue to provide the latest in medical technology for our tiniest patients."

Bowman joined Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati in June 1951. He held various management positions, including first plant manager in Cape Girardeau from 1969 until retiring in 1984.

Bowman was a longtime supporter of the hospital. He joined its foundation board at its inception in 1976 and was its second-ever chairman, serving from 1987 to 1990.

The $1 million donation will be used in two different ways, but both for the neonatal intensive care unit, according to Bill Kiel, the executive director of the hospital foundation. A $500,000 endowment will be established in Bowman's name for the neonatal intensive care unit.

Interest from that fund, Kiel said, will be used to buy new equipment each year for the unit, which recently expanded to 25 beds and two isolation rooms for critically ill or premature babies. Kiel said that interest could generate 7 percent to 10 percent of the $500,000 each year.

Also, Kiel said, the money from the trust will be used to help pay the bills of families who have no insurance or are underinsured.

The other $500,000 will be used to help pay off the debt from the cost of the unit's expansion, which was unveiled April 4.

Kiel said that the $1 million donation was the largest estate gift at the hospital. But he said there were likely larger donations by individuals around the time the hospital moved to its present location in 1976.

He said there are about three to four estate gifts each year, ranging from $25,000 to $200,000.

Those who knew Bowman would not have been surprised to know that he left a large amount of money to the hospital, said Joe Buerkle, Bowman's attorney. The $1 million was 28 percent of Bowman's estate, Buerkle said. He also left similar amounts to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, where Bowman graduated in 1951, and his mother's church, Buerkle said.

Bowman never married, Buerkle said, and had few surviving family members.

"This is an object lesson for other people who are similarly situated," Buerkle said.

Jerry Pollard was a longtime friend of Bowman's who worked with him at P&G for 30 years even before they both moved here in the late 1960s.

While a bit reclusive, Pollard said that Bollard cared a lot for the people who worked for him at P&G, who called him "Mr. B." Pollard especially remembered Bowman's uncanny ability with names.

"He knew the names of everybody who worked there at the plant," Pollard said. "Then he would go beyond that. He learned the names of their family members. That sort of defines who Jim was. He was a manager. He was a businessman, but he focused on the people."

335-6611, extension 137

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: