Thursday, January 20, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 77

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About the Cougar

Bowen will resign if A&M tragedy was school's fault

Cougar News Services

Ray M. Bowen, president of Texas A&M University, said he would resign his position if investigations into the Nov. 18 Aggie Bonfire collapse find the school was responsible for the incident.

As the leader of the university, Bowen said in a Jan. 12 interview with the Bryan-College Station Eagle, everything affecting the school is his responsibility.

"I would walk each night by the bonfire. Was there anything I should have seen? Was there anything I missed?" he said.

Although no one has suggested Bowen resign, he said he would do so to set an example of how the 43,000-student university should be led.

"If, for example, there was a serious financial situation that led back to my indifference, I would take the responsibility," he said. "How can I say to someone, 'I want you out of this job,' when I'm at the top of that command? I have to set the standard."

In the two months since the tragedy, an independent commission has been organized to determine why the bonfire collapsed. In the meantime, Bowen said he spends less time in meetings about the collapse.

"But I do spend a lot of time thinking about what happened, thinking about those students and their families," he said.

Bowen, himself a 1958 graduate of A&M, became president of the school in 1994 after work with Oklahoma State University and Rice University, serving in a directoral position at the National Science Foundation and three years of military service.

He has led A&M through a period of growth in number and academic stature, and A&M Board of Regents Chairman Don Powell supported his work as president both before and since the bonfire incident.

"I think, and I know many others across this state and world would agree, that Dr. Bowen has done a remarkable job," Powell told the Eagle.

Immediately following the collapse, and in the weeks since, Bowen has received a flood of messages relating to the tragedy -- expressing everything from grief and sympathy to hatred.

He personally responded to many of the messages and told the Eagle it was a sort of therapy.

"It kept me from sitting and crying," Bowen said. "It gave me something to do in between meetings and on the plane to or from a funeral.

"I've always believed in the Aggie spirit, but this accident proved it to the world. It was a stark example, though. I'd rather people had remained skeptical about A&M than to have learned about its spirit this way."

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