l-r: Angela Roten, Dr. Jeff Cox, Arnold Lakey, Bumgarner, Tom Bowman, Karolen Bowman, Allison Phillips, Mike Wingler, and Christy Earp.

A dedication ceremony was held on Thursday, December 10, 2020, for the Bowman Rare Book Collection housed in the Pardue Library at Wilkes Community College (WCC). Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions which limit the number of individuals for inside spaces, the ceremony was filmed and is available on WCC’s YouTube channel.

The Bowman Rare Book Collection houses approximately 8,000 titles from the private collection of Dr. Tom Bowman. Primarily consisting of first, early, and important editions of popular serial fiction titles for adolescent boys and girls, the collection includes works by American and British authors that span the late-19th to mid-20th century, an era considered by many to be the golden age of children’s publishing. The titles in this collection established such iconic characters as Tom Swift, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tarzan. Writers like Horatio Alger, Jr. introduced readers to exciting careers and encouraged them to pursue the American Dream. Other series in this collection allows readers to immerse themselves in a variety of adventures, from camping with the Boy Scouts to serving in the armed forces during the First World War, to taking the field in their favorite collegiate sports, to exploring outer space. Scholars will find the Bowman Rare Book Collection a treasure for the study and appreciation of the children’s literature of the time period, and curious readers will discover a world of new-to-them stories just waiting to be enjoyed.

WCC President, Dr. Jeff Cox stated, “We are honored to have a collection of this caliber on our campus.  I have really enjoyed working with Tom on this project.  He is a voracious reader and has such a passion for these historic books.  I really appreciate the Bowmans’ generosity and their decision to make Wilkes Community College the permanent home of this fantastic collection.”

Dr. Bowman thanked Dr. Cox, WCC President, Christy Earp, Director Learning Resources/ Librarian, and Allison Phillips, VP of Institutional Advancement, for their assistance in completing this project. Bowman also thanked the current Board of Trustees for understanding his vision and assisting to make it happen. Dr. Bowman added, “To my knowledge, this is the premier collection of this type of books anywhere in the eastern part of the United States.”

During the ceremony, WCC Foundation President, Arnold Lakey also presented the Bowmans with a plaque from the MerleFest Team and WCC in appreciation for their donation of $150,000 and the match challenge they issued to help offset expenses that were incurred in preparation for MerleFest 2020, which was canceled. The challenge raised an additional $212,522 for a total of $364,522.

Inside the Bowman Rare Book Collection