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Eric celebrates 50 years teaching students in Wales

Doctor Eric Bowers

Friends, academics, and co-workers past and present came together last week to celebrate a biologist’s 50-year contribution of distance learning in Wales.

Port Talbot-born Dr Eric Bowers, who now lives in Southerndown, has been working for The Open University (OU) in Wales for 50 years, beginning as a staff tutor in science in 1971 – almost as long as the university has existed.

During this time, Eric has seen the university move from televised lectures and radio broadcasts, to VHS and CD ROM, and finally onto online teaching.

He began his work at The Open University as a staff tutor and, following his retirement, continued to teach on the OU’s Infectious Diseases Module.

At the celebration event, Eric was addressed by OU in Wales Director, Louise Casella, and Dr Janet Haresnape, Senior Lecturer and Science Staff Tutor in the School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences at the OU.

Many of his former colleagues shared their memories of Eric’s time teaching at the OU. These included delivering course materials across Wales in his car during a postal strike in the 1980s; and injuring himself on the dancefloor during evening festivities at an OU summer school. Eric also reminisced about his chance encounter with Alice – supposedly a ghost who haunted the OU’s old Cathedral Road office in Cardiff. 

Eric’s contribution to teaching was also recognised. He taught a module every year since joining the OU, working with thousands of students, and attended over 100 summer schools. He has also previously been awarded Honorary Associate Status by the university.

What has been constant is the motivation, enthusiasm, and perseverance of our students, and I have met many amazing achievers, some with little previous educational experience. So, my present students share the same characteristics as those early learners in the 1970s. It is they who have made it all worthwhile. I thank them all!

Dr Eric Bowers

'I can think of no-one who embodies the spirit of the OU as much as Eric,' said Louise Casella. 'Thanks very much Eric for all your tireless work over the last 50 years. Countless numbers of students from several generations owe you a debt of gratitude for opening up their eyes to a world of learning and helping them achieve their potential.'

Eric was presented a letter from OU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Blackman, and a very special gift from colleagues – a new pair of binoculars to be used for bird watching, one of his favourite hobbies.

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