Ruth Ann Bowman

Ruth Ann Bowman, 69 years old, of Lawrence, KS, passed away on Saturday, May 22nd at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City after a struggle with a reoccurrence of cancer.

She was born in Cleveland, Ohio to James and Mabel (Bartels) Bowman
on September 14th, 1951. They both predecease her. She graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in 1969, received a BFA in Sculpture from The Cleveland Institute of Art in 1974, an MFA in Textile Design from The University of Kansas in 1982, and taught in Art and Design at KU for 41 years.

Having the opportunity to travel for extended periods of time in Europe, North and Central America, and the Middle East, Ruth visited major museums, galleries, and archaeological sites. These experiences were formative and enhanced her insights as both an artist and professor.

Ruth adored her family, she loved to cook and entertain; but above all, she was passionate about teaching. It was her calling. She was an exceptional teacher and mentor and had an immense impact on countless freshman students who branched out into many disciplines. She oversaw and mentored the graduate TA’s as well as young colleagues in the large 2-D Foundations program in Fine Art. She was always eager to share in order to help make her colleagues and GTAs better teachers. In all, she taught at KU as a Teaching Assistant and Lecturer in the Department of Design (in the School of Fine Arts), and then as a tenured Professor in the Department of Visual Art (in the School of the Arts, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Science). She never stopped developing her pedagogical strategies, and her classes continually metamorphized to meet changing thought within the fine and applied arts disciplines. She was a compassionate but demanding teacher. Her students absolutely adored her.

Ruth was also an amazing artist. Her beautifully made work came from the heart. It is intimate and powerful. Combining impeccable craft, mixed media and personal narrative the work is thoughtful and evocative. Ruth made poetry out of the physical.

We will carry on the tradition of one of Ruth’s greatest joys- listening to people’s stories. Ruth loved everyone’s stories and wove them all into her own cascading narrative encompassing memory, time, art, food, travel, relationships, and the human experience in general. Ruth eagerly listened to people’s stories in a way that made one feel affirmed and loved, and by this curious and tender nature she made friends everywhere she went.

Ruth is survived by her son, Karl Havener, and her three sisters: Jane Smith, Mary (Kenneth) Loparo, and Lois Bowman (Tom Canale). She also leaves behind a group of devastated friends and colleagues who will miss her kindness, enthusiasm, and knowledge.

A memorial gathering is being planned in Lawrence at a later date for friends, family, and students to celebrate Ruth’s life.

Ruth will be buried at the historic Pioneer Cemetery on KU’s campus. Arrangements are by Warren-McElwain Mortuary.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to KU Endowment in support of the Ruth Bowman Award. Please make note that your gift is in memory of Ruth Bowman. Send donations to KU Endowment, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044 or give online at or may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

The family wishes to extend our sincere thanks to Kelsey Yankey, Cima Katz, and Mary Anne Jordan for their loving support to Ruth and Karl during this tragic time.
For more information or to post a condolence go to

3 Condolences

  1. Tanya Hartman on May 29, 2021 at 10:53 am

    Ruth was extremely gentle, fiercely intelligent and funny. She was a strong person, who loved deeply and gave generously. I am grateful that she was here, and shall miss her and think her for the rest of my own life. May she rest In peace. So many people loved her.

  2. Gina Westergard on May 30, 2021 at 8:15 am

    Beautiful, passionate, smart, funny and talented Ruth…she always gave more than she received. She was my friend, colleague, and mentor. She taught me by example that you can be a rigorous teacher while still being compassionate. The art work of her students was outstanding and I always looked forward to seeing it displayed in Chalmers Hall. KU will not be the same without her. I am so happy that there is an endowment set up in her name. I look forward to awarding it to deserving students in memory of Ruth’s unwavering commitment to her students and KU.

  3. Cara & Jim Connelly on May 30, 2021 at 10:35 am

    We talked with Ruth, laughed with Ruth, and cried with Ruth. She was such a kind, gentle & beautiful soul. We love you and will miss you.

Leave a Condolence