Bowen Distinguished Career

Presented to an individual whose professional life has been devoted in substantial part to the study of higher education and whose career has significantly advanced the field through extraordinary scholarship, leadership and service. The award is usually presented at, or near, the time of the individual's retirement.

Howard R. Bowen (1908-1989) was R. Stanton Avery Professor of Economics and Education at The Claremont Graduate University. A scholar of economics, an authority on the economics of higher education, and a leader in American higher education, he received numerous awards. These included the 1985 Distinguished Service to Education Award of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), considered to be the top recognition award in the field of higher education, and both the Distinguished Research Award and the Distinguished Career Award of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

When he joined the Graduate School Faculty in Economics in 1969, Bowen brought with him a remarkable record of service in government, business, and university teaching and administration. He was chief economist of the Joint Congressional Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation from 1944 to 1945 and economist for the Irving Trust Company, a Wall Street bank, from 1945 to 1947. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed him to head a review of the U.S. aid program in Thailand and to serve on the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. In 1964, President Johnson named him chair of the National Committee on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress.

Bowen taught economics at the University of Iowa, the University of Illinois, and Williams College. He was president of Grinnell College from 1955 to 1964 and of the University of Iowa from 1964 to 1969.

In 1970, Bowen became president and then chancellor of Claremont University Center, serving four years in that capacity, and then returned to the classroom in 1974. In 1983, his book, The State of the Nation and the Agenda for Higher Education, received the Ness Book Award, given annually to the book judged to be the most significant contribution to studies on liberal education published during the preceding year. American Professors: A National Resource Imperiled, co-authored with CGU Professor Jack Schuster, was published in 1986 and also received the Ness Book Award. His fourteenth book, Academic Recollections (1988), recounts many aspects of his extraordinary career.

In tribute to Howard Bowen following his death, Clark Kerr, former president of the University of California, described Bowen as “the moral mentor for all of us” and “the Chief Justice of American Higher Education.” His many friends in Claremont concur.

2020 Howard R. Bowen Distinguished Career Award

Estela Mara Bensimon, USC
Opportunity, equity, and justice have always been at the center of Estela Mara Bensimon’s scholarly agenda. Her expertise on these topics has greatly advanced our field. Bensimon’s early research on leadership in higher education, mostly from a critical feminist standpoint, helped gender and decolonize the scholarship on postsecondary leadership. Her 11 books include Critical Approaches to the Study of Higher Education and Engaging the Race Question: Accountability and Equity in U.S. Higher Education. Additionally, she has given our field new language for talking about equity. “Equity mindedness” is a term she coined. She founded and directed The Center for Urban Education, which has worked with more than 600 colleges and universities across the United States and has procured more than $17 million in grants and contracts to support the Center’s work. 

Call for Nominations

Nominations for the 2021 award will open in May 2021.

To submit a nomination you will need the following information to complete the form:

  • Name, Title, Position, Institution, Email, and Phone Number of Coordinating Nominator
  • Name, Title, Position, Institution, Email, and Phone Number of Nominee
  • A nomination statement up to 750 words which explains why the nominee deserves this ASHE award. Rationale may include, but is not limited to, the nominee’s impact on higher education theorizing, research, practice, and/or ASHE as an organization.
  • 2-3 letters of support. For upload into the nomination form, these should be combined into one document, preferably a pdf.
  • The nominee's CV.

New for 2020: Each nominee will be limited to one nomination. In the event multiple nominations are submitted, the committee chair will notify the coordinating nominators requesting they consolidate their nominations with the best three letters.

2019 Howard Bowen Distinguished Career Award:
Zelda Gamson, New England Resource Center for Higher Education

2018 Howard Bowen Distinguished Career Award:
William J. Tierney


  • 2020 Estela Mara Bensimon
  • 2019 Zelda Gamson
  • 2018 William G. Tierney
  • 2017 Michael Olivas
  • 2016 Debra Bragg
  • 2015 George D. Kuh
  • 2014 Sheila Slaughter
  • 2013 Ronald G. Ehrenberg
  • 2012 Daryl G. Smith
  • 2011 Walter R. Allen
  • 2010 Patrick T. Terenzini
  • 2009 Kenneth A. Feldman
  • 2008 Philip G. Altbach
  • 2007 Jack H. Schuster
  • 2006 Martin Trow
  • 2005 Robert Birnbaum
  • 2004 Yvonna Lincoln
  • 2003 Ernest T. Pascarella
  • 2002 Marvin W. Peterson
  • 2001 Helen S. Astin
  • 2000 Arthur Chickering
  • 1999 Joan S. Stark
  • 1998 Arthur Cohen
  • 1997 Burton Clark
  • 1996 Alexander W. Astin
  • 1995 William Toombs
  • 1994 Robert Silverman
  • 1993 Robert O. Berdahl
  • 1992 K. Patricia Cross
  • 1991 Cameron Fincher
  • 1989 Mary Corcoran & Robert Pace
  • 1987 Lewis Mayhew & Joseph Kauffman
  • 1986 David Riesman
  • 1985 Howard R. Bowen