COLUMBIA, Mo. – Bowtie-clad R. Bowen Loftin has been inspiring people at the University of Missouri-Columbia since becoming chancellor 2 years ago. The inspiration began after his warm welcome from the students and his sterling reputation and bold reforms have impressed most everyone surrounding the institution.
Loftin’s Twitter handle of @bowtieger has a following of over 22,000, many of which are students who regularly tweet spottings and selfies of the popular figure on campus. Loftin himself tweets out pictures of the ceremonies and events, as well as meetings he has with students and figures.
This week, Loftin is proudly keeping the colors flying skyward to Kansas City to meet with Mayor Sly James, tweeting “Looking forward to meeting @MayorSlyJames today. #BowtiesAreCool.”
The chancellor takes to social media daily to applaud the exceptional work of Mizzou students, ranging from work on tiger conservation or sports achievements.
“Dr. Loftin is in one word, inspiring,” said Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Fulton. “He’s a folk hero with students as he pushes them to succeed while being a friend, confidante, mentor, and an ear to bend. Not only does he motivate students, but he’s inspired adults who care for Mizzou all over the world as well. Through his love for the students and Mizzou, he’s made a tremendous impact on the future of education at the school. I’m proud to know him. He’s that rare breed that can make someone believe deeply in themselves and their institution.”
However, his reforms are making him just as many friends in the Mizzou community. After arriving, Loftin began a series of, at the time, controversial buy outs of administration and faculty before moving to bring in new blood to several positions.
“His buyout program was hard to do – candidly, it was a very courageous move that has added some key faculty members that most people now realize was a fundamental move that will spur the university on to new heights,” said David Steelman, member of the University Board of Curators.
Loftin also reformed the economics of the university — transferring responsibilities and updating the accounting procedures that were becoming obsolete.
“He has an ability to assess situations quickly and make an executive decisions in a timely manner,” said state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. “His abilities are the opposite of what has stifled the university for years. He has the ability to do what successful CEO’s do, which is make tough decisions in a timely manner, and that is what is needed to move the university forward.”
But one of the biggest things Loftin brings to the university may be his sterling reputation inside the American Association of Universities, which is a group of the top research universities in the nation. Loftin brought a great deal of credibility with him his past successes with Texas A&M, and according to Steelman, “has already boosted the way the University is viewed around the world”.
His administrative skills and people skills may have best combined in the aftermath of the unrest in Ferguson. Loftin made himself personally available to students to hear their concerns and was credited with a leading role in reducing the anxiety many students felt during the fall.
One student, who requested anonymity from fear of reprisals from other administrators told The Missouri Times that, “He didn’t hide behind his desk or send some front person out to get us out of his hair. He spent hours sitting and listening to what we were feeling. I saw him listen to a lot of African-American students who were very upset and after they had someone like him actually listen to their concerns and fears, they felt better.”
Before starting at Mizzou, the native Texan served as the president of Texas A&M University. Loftin is an alumnus of A&M, where he studied physics. He went on for graduate studies of physics at Rice University before becoming an engineering professor at Old Dominion University at the University of Houston. He is also a professor of physics at Mizzou.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.