Baylor University Names Tommy Bowman as 2024 Founders Medal Recipient
One of Baylor's highest awards, 2024 Baylor Founders Medal honors former Regent, first Black scholarship student-athlete
WACO, Texas (Jan. 11, 2024) – Baylor University today announced Tommy Bowman, B.B.A. ’71, of Waco as the recipient of the 2024 Baylor University Founders Medal. Bowman holds a special place in Baylor’s history as the University’s first Black scholarship student-athlete, though he also is known for his extensive service and leadership, as well as his membership on Baylor’s Board of Regents from 2001-2010.
“I am thrilled and honored to recognize Tommy Bowman as this year’s Baylor Founders Medal recipient,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “At Baylor University, we are committed to our mission of educating men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community. As a student, Tommy helped Baylor University fulfill our mission as he led with integrity and excellence as a key member of our men’s basketball team, removing barriers within the Baylor community. As an alumnus, he continues to be a voice of support and accountability, both as a dedicated Baylor Bear and through his service on the Board of Regents. He exemplifies our mission, and I am grateful for his transformational impact – both as part of our history, and as he has helped to shape our future.”
Established in 1969, the Founders Medal is one of the highest honors conferred by Baylor University to deserving alumni and advocates whose support and service have shaped the University, impacting the future of Baylor in historically significant ways. Bowman’s involvement with the University began in 1966, when he arrived at Baylor as a forward for the men’s basketball team.
“I have always believed that my attending Baylor University was providential,” Bowman said. “I never believed it was my athleticism that got me to Baylor or the reason I enjoyed my athletic success. I do know that my association with Baylor has been a blessing to me in more ways than I can tell. However, I also know that every good and perfect gift comes from my Savior and my Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the real source!”
Bowman played three varsity seasons at Baylor, averaging 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for his career and graduating with a degree in business. He led the Bears in scoring once and in rebounding twice and was a two-time first-team All-Southwest Conference honoree. He still ranks among Baylor’s top 10 in career rebounds per game and career double-doubles. Bowman was inducted into the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999, and into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame in 2018.
“We are overjoyed to see Tommy Bowman honored with the Baylor University Founders Medal. It is fitting for Tommy to receive the highest honor the University bestows on an alumnus. His lasting impact on Baylor is beyond measure,” said Mack B. Rhodes IV, vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics. “Tommy is a true trailblazer and someone who forever changed the landscape of our great University in a positive way, opening the door for generations of future student-athletes. On and off the court, Tommy has exemplified our mission of Preparing Champions for Life. He is most deserving of this special honor, and we are proud to have him as a member of the Baylor Family.”
Bowman came to Baylor from his East Texas hometown of Athens. He has said his aspirations were to attend a nearby community college until a chance encounter between Carroll Dawson, a Baylor legend and then-assistant Baylor Basketball coach, and a gas station attendant. Dawson, who was on his way home to Alba, Texas, stopped in Athens, and the attendant sparked conversation after noticing his Baylor parking sticker. The attendant proudly told Dawson that the best player in the state lived nearby, and he soon found himself directing Dawson to Bowman’s house, where Dawson spent the next hour and a half shelling peas with Bowman’s mother as he made the case for Bowman to become a Baylor Bear.
What followed was an impressive college career where Bowman served as a key contributor on a talented team. As a sophomore, Bowman led the team in scoring (13.5) and rebounding (9.4) to earn all-conference and second-team all-district honors. During his junior season, he was second in scoring (15.3) and first in rebounds (10.9) and helped the Bears to a runner-up finish in league play and an overall record of 18-6, the program’s most wins in a season since a trip to the Final Four in 1948.
Off the court, Bowman met his wife, Jackie, at First Baptist Church NBC on Jefferson Avenue in Waco and formed lifelong friendships with his teammates, including David Sibley, B.A. ’70, J.D. ’89, who — long before he served Waco as mayor and state senator — was Bowman’s best man at his wedding in 1969. Tommy and Jackie Bowman remained in Central Texas, becoming leaders in their community and building their family, which includes their son, Tommy Bowman Jr., and daughter, Krystal Agbahiwe. Tommy Jr. is a lead trailer mechanic with AAA Cooper Transportation and a basketball official with the Fort Worth Basketball Officials Association, while Krystal lives in Houston.
Bowman was a manager for 18 years with M. Lipsitz & Co., a scrap metal recycling company in Waco. Previously, he worked for more than 30 years with Central Freight Lines. Community service has been a hallmark of Bowman’s legacy. Thirty years after graduating, Bowman would return to serve on Baylor’s Board of Regents, a role he held from 2001-2010. He also has served on the boards of the American Red Cross Waco chapter, YMCA and City of Waco Parks and Recreation and volunteers his time by serving as a chaperone for his grandson’s school field trips.
On Dec. 16, 2023, local sportswriter Chad Conine released a biography about Bowman’s life and impact. “Tommy Bowman: Answering the Call” (Baylor University Press) details Bowman’s experiences as the first Black scholarship student-athlete at Baylor, while providing an inspiring story of faith and perseverance and what it means to answer God’s call.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.