Mike Bowers, first faculty recruit for School of Neuroscience
Mike Bowers: Sept. 23, 1972 – July 27, 2021
Jerald Michael “Mike” Bowers, the first faculty member recruited to the School of Neuroscience, died July 27, 2021, after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 48.
Bowers, an assistant professor, interviewed for the School of Neuroscience in November 2015 even before its approval by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors or the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. His research focused on language and neurodevelopment disorders, including the development of language and, separately, children with autism spectrum disorder. Recently, Bowers and his research team were using rat models to understand the genetic origins of stuttering.
His death sent shockwaves through the School of Neuroscience, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science, and beyond, with faculty and staff, students, alumni, colleagues, and friends sharing phone calls, emails, social media posts, and texts in their grief. Harald Sontheimer, the founding director of the school and now a professor at the University of Virginia, said, “He was the first recruit, the catalyst who took his chance on a startup that was not even approved. His joining [Virginia Tech] made it happen. He was at every [faculty] recruitment dinner. He was the first to teach big classes. … I miss him dearly.”
Mike Fox, a professor and current director of the School of Neuroscience and a professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, echoed those sentiments. “Mike was an irreplaceable member of our school, university, and community. He was a passionate and skillful educator, an excellent experimentalist, a dedicated and approachable mentor, a committed team member, a leader, and most importantly a friend to all,” Fox said.
Bowers is survived by his wife, Angella Johnson, step-daughters Tessa and Lily Johnson, mother Joy Bowers, brother James Bowers and sister Kim Bowers. Preceded in death by his father Joseph William Bowers Jr. According to the family, Angella was Bowers’ first kiss in sixth grade and last kiss before his passing.