On my own: A word from President John C. Bowling

Dr. John C. Bowling, University president, was once a student at Olivet Nazarene University. Following are some of his recollections about his freshman year.

September 6, 2017 Statements

Dr. John C. Bowling, University president, was once a student at Olivet Nazarene University. Following are some of his recollections about his freshman year.


I was determined to get off to a great start my freshman year in college. For me, it was a new beginning and I was ready. Following summer orientation, I wrote out a weekly schedule and a daily plan to organize my time, help me get good grades, and enjoy campus life. I had resolved not to let anything hold me back.

The weekend just before classes were to begin, my parents drove me to school, helped me move into the dorm, spent the night in a local motel, and then headed home the next morning after a final good-bye. I was finally on my own — how exciting! But by that night, I began feeling sick. It started with an ache in my side and then general nausea set in.

My roommate summoned the Resident Director, who called the campus doctor. “Sounds like homesickness to me,” was the physician’s reply. “He will probably be all right in the morning, but I’m coming to campus later this evening, so if he doesn’t seem better, let me know and I’ll stop by.”

I did seem a little better for a brief time, then the pain returned. The doctor stopped by my room about 9:30 p.m. He asked a few questions, did a preliminary exam, turned to the RD and said, “Put him in your car and meet me at the hospital.” As they helped me to the car, I heard another student say, “Wow, I didn’t know that homesickness could be that serious!”

Around midnight I was finally settled into a hospital room. The doctor was gone, the RD had returned to campus, and my folks were hundreds of miles away. I was finally on my own, but this time it wasn’t so exciting. I had a stomach pump and an IV and was scheduled to have my appendix removed the next morning.

The next day, my folks made the return trip to check on me. Much to my dismay, classes started without me. Each day following the surgery, I felt better physically, but worse emotionally. I was already behind in every class.

Beginning school is tough enough when you are well rested and ready to go. I ended up starting several days late and feeling rather puny for a couple of weeks. My plans, my schedule, my goals were all in shambles. That’s when I began to learn that it is God who is the author of new beginnings — not I. When my plans are suddenly set aside, I can be assured that God is still at work for my good and His glory. How ironic that I started my freshman year so far behind and yet, years later, ended up as the president of that university. Every day I walk by that freshman dorm as I leave my office. As I do, if things are quiet enough, I seem to hear these words from Scripture:
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30, 31).

Originally published in College Faith: 150 Christian Leaders and Educators Share Faith Stories from Their Student Days, edited by Ronald Alan Knott (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2002), 118–119. Used by permission.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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