Ask the Archivist: Rush’s J.R. Bowman Center

By Heather Stecklein

During a recent walking tour of campus conducted by the archives, three Rush University Medical Center employees asked the following question: “The Johnston R. Bowman Health Center is distinct in mission and location from the rest of the clinical services on campus? What brought the JRB to our campus, and when was it built?” Here’s the answer:

The Johnston R. Bowman Health Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago

The Johnston R. Bowman Health Center's two towers can be seen in the lower left corner of this 1977 photo.

During the first half of the 20th century, the Bowman Dairy Co. was one of the largest suppliers of dairy products in the Chicago area. In 1966, the Dean Foods Co. purchased the Bowman Dairy Co. Soon after, Lula Bowman, the widow of Bowman Dairy founder Johnston R. Bowman, died.

She bequeathed funds for the creation of a nonprofit organization (the Johnston R. Bowman Home Corp.) that would orchestrate the establishment of a world-class elder care center in Chicago. The corporation asked for proposals from a variety of area health care institutions, and the plan submitted by Rush impressed the selection committee more than the other nine contenders.

“The Medical Center’s proposal was an innovative one with a great understanding of the needs of the community,” the committee’s president remarked. “The keystone of this proposal has been to keep older people members of the community and to enable them to continue to fulfill an active role.” Continue reading