A $1.6 million legacy estate gift from the family of an orthopedic surgeon and his wife will provide scholarship support for future physicians studying at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

After growing up in Lynchburg, Virginia, Robert Richardson Bowen returned to the city after receiving his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and medical degree from Medical College of Virginia – his education interrupted by service in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific. He practiced orthopedic surgery in Lynchburg for 40 years with his wife, Rebecca Bowen, at his side.

Throughout the years, the Bowens supported a variety of health care advocacy and educational initiatives, from support for new clinical spaces to scholarships for nursing students or physicians to continue their education.

Robert Bowen passed away in 2013 and Rebecca Bowen passed away in 2018. Before her death, Rebecca Bowen expressed a desire to continue her and Robert’s support of health care advocacy and education through bequests and legacy gifts, one of which was a wish to see health care-related scholarship support at Virginia Tech.

“My Aunt Rebecca wanted to leave a bequest to each university that shaped her husband into the accomplished man and surgeon that he became,” said Mary Dunn Conover, niece of Robert and Rebecca Bowen and one of the trustees of their estate. “Although Virginia Tech did not have the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine when he was a student there, Uncle Bob dedicated his whole career to learning and to the practice and advancement of medicine and science. His Virginia Tech collegiate education was the beginning of an extraordinary journey, so Aunt Rebecca felt that this was an appropriate tribute.”

The Bowen family said Robert had a love for learning and enjoyed teaching students and other professionals throughout his career. The Dr. and Mrs. Robert R. and Rebecca Bowen Memorial Scholarship Fund will help offset educational expenses for students pursuing a medical degree at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

“This generous gift from the Bowen family will provide valuable financial support for our students,” said Daniel Harrington, interim dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “Scholarships allow us to attract and retain competitive students and make medical education more accessible for all.”

“Hopefully this gift will both inspire others to give as well as begin to help future scholarship recipients view their benefactors as real people to be remembered and appreciated,” said Conover.

Robert Bowen graduated from Virginia Tech in 1950 with a degree from the College of Science. He only made one previous gift to Virginia Tech: $2.00 in 1956.

Robert Bowen with football and Rebecca Bowen
Rebecca and Robert Bowen in 1978. Photos provided by their niece, Mary Dunn Conover.