Remembering Bill Bowles

By Andrea Fischer

The ammonia refrigeration industry lost one of its most devoted advocates and enthusiastic mentors last year with the passing of Bill Bowles, former IIAR Chairman, president of Evapco and first chairman of the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation. Although Bill had retired from the industry, he remained personally invested in its success, serving on IIAR’s ARF Board of Directors as Chairman of the Trustees and as Vice Chairman of Evapco’s Board of Directors through 2012.

“Engineering mentors in this industry are readily available. Executive mentors such as Bill are rare,” said Jeff Welch, president of Welch Engineering Corporation. “His no-nonsense, get it done, approach to decision making was as refreshing as it was inspirational. I hope he realized the length of his shadow. His presence in the industry will be missed in many ways.”

Described by friends and colleagues as an “action oriented person,” Bill was dedicated to his projects and focused on accomplishing his objectives, especially when they were part of larger efforts to advance the industrial refrigeration industry.

“Bill had a special interest in IIAR. He was willing to invest his own time, money and leadership in this association to make it as good as he could make it,” said IIAR Chairman Joe Mandato. “He not only had a solid plan for the association but he also had a real vision for the future.”

Part of that vision was to establish the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation as a vehicle to create the financial structure and support to carry out research projects on behalf of the industry and offer scholarships to ensure the development of future generations of engineers.

“Bill recognized the necessity of funding industry research in order to create a more sustainable community during a time when IIAR itself and the sustainability of the organization was being challenged,” said IIAR President Bruce Badger, who added that Bowles then volunteered to lead the newly formed Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation. “That was so typical of Bill’s optimism and willingness to be the first in line to help when asking others to contribute.”

Within ARF, Bill accepted the responsibility of soliciting large contributions from the industry, a role he conceptualized and then worked hard to build with the ARF trustee’s program, which requires a minimum $50 thousand donation to ARF to join.

“Bill not only came up with the idea of the trustee giving structure for ARF, but he accepted the responsibility for soliciting those large donations on behalf of the industry, and had a lot of success,” said Mandato. Bill eventually raised initial funding of nearly 1.5 million dollars for ARF.

Lending his leadership skills to IIAR was a pursuit that was also very important to Bill, said Mandato. “As IIAR Chairman, Bill was able to apply his own sense of discipline and his business philosophy to the work and structure of the association. He set the framework for the level of success we have today.”

Specifically, the idea of managing by objectives within the association – so that IIAR committees had a process to get projects done – was a concept introduced during Bill’s tenure, said Mandato. “During his year as the IIAR Chairman and later through his ongoing involvement with the executive committee, Bill helped to establish a framework for how the association would work in the future. We still follow that framework today.”

Professionally, Mandato and Badger, who were both hired by Bill at one point in their careers, said they remember him as a dedicated mentor and friend. “Bill recognized that everybody approached their job with their own experience, but he always had a clear direction for the business and for the people who worked for him. As a manager, he was good at providing a vision and then allowing you to carry it out.”

Bill Bowles was born and raised in Leonardtown, Maryland. He graduated from St. Mary’s Ryken High School in 1966 and earned a degree in history from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Bill began his professional career in industrial refrigeration at Baltimore Air Coil, where he went to work in 1972, and was eventually promoted to vice president.

In 1990, he joined Evapco Inc. as Executive Vice President and assumed the role of President a year later. He retired from Evapco in 2004, but remained active as a member of the company’s Board of Directors.