Talking History… with Natalie Colbert Bowers

By Scott Grove | Posted on 03.30.15 – History, Look Back, Q&A

There are a few people who have had a longer and more sustaining relationship with Hood College than Frederick Native Natalie Colbert Bowers (class of 1952). As a teen, her adoptive parents, William T. and Janie Quynn Delaplaine, housed two undergraduates in their home; as a Hood student, she was fully immersed in academics and social activities; and as an alum, she still serves the college.

Scott: You grew up in the large white house on Rosemont Avenue just west of Hood College. Do you have early memories of the college?
Natalie: Oh yes. The Early Education outdoor playground was just beyond my house and the French House was beside us. I also remember that the Frederick Trolley line was routed through the Hood campus. It came down Fifth Street and exited the campus on Rosemont.

Scott: Your parents took in two students. When and why did they do this?
Natalie: My parents were both very involved with the college. My father was a trustee and my mother [was] an active alum. In 1946, Hood had a large enrollment and ran out of dorm space, so we housed two girls. They were very nice and I met their friends, so I knew students before I ever enrolled.

Scott: What did you study at the college?
Natalie: I was an English major and an art minor. My studies were very time consuming. I remember staying up until four o’clock in the morning sitting at the typewriter finishing English papers. And my art labs were three hours long. I don’t remember having much science – just the required courses.

Scott: What did you and your classmates do for fun?
Natalie: Some of the girls were avid bridge players. There were dances. The Naval Academy would come here. We made a lot of weekend trips to other colleges: Syracuse, Bucknell. … No one on campus had a car, so we walked a lot. I remember us taking a short cut through an empty lot on Rockwell Terrace, where a house has now stood for decades, to get Downtown.

Scott: What programs or facilities were in place that no longer exist?
Natalie: Horseback riding was one of Hood’s athletic classes. The stables were located near the northern end of the campus. We used to take morning breakfast rides up to Camp Raudy. Back then you could ride horses on Rosemont Avenue. I remember getting thrown once and falling into a mud puddle.

Scott: What else has changed?
Natalie: So much. Our athletic fields, where we played field hockey, were located where Coffman Chapel is now. The art department has grown tremendously and offers a master’s degree in ceramics. Academically, I think the graduate program is the most impressive thing that has been put in place. It’s important to local working residents who need or want a degree. There is so much new infrastructure and programming that has been put into place since Dr. [Ronald] Volpe became president, yet I think Hood still maintains the character of a small liberal arts college.

Scott: How did you feel about the campus going co-ed?
Natalie: I don’t think it was avoidable. No one wanted it, but we all knew perfectly well that it had to happen. It would have been tragic had Hood failed as an institution. It would have been a huge economic blow to Frederick.

Scott: You and your husband lived in Pennsylvania from 1977 to 1995 and then moved back into the house you grew up in and lived there for nearly 20 years before selling it back to Hood.
Natalie: Yes, there is a nice symmetry to it because my family originally purchased the house in 1925 from Dr. [Joseph Henry] Apple, the first president of the college. I was happy that Hood wanted the house. I’m told that it is to serve as the new president’s home. I hope he or she likes it.

Scott: How would you sum up your experience at Hood?
Natalie: Looking back on it now, my years at Hood were some of the happiest in my life. I made a lot of wonderful friends. I still keep in touch with them all.

Scott: And the evolution of the college?
Natalie: If you’re able to balance the budget, offer the programs you want and have a viable institution, I’d say it’s all worked out pretty well, wouldn’t you?

Natalie Colbert Bowers was a member of the Hood College Board of Associates from 1983 to 2003, and continues to serve on the Board of Associates Emeriti. She and her husband, Martin Bowers, live in Frederick. Scott Grove is a marketing consultant and owner of Grove Public Relations, LLC, an advertising and marketing firm he founded in 1986. A former reporter, Grove is a lifelong student of history and co-owner of iTour, creator of the Frederick Maryland Walking Tour, produced both as a mobile app and a DVD. For more information, visit itourfrederick.com or grovepr.com.