Skip to main content

Bowles Gift Will Create Endowed Choral Music Professorship at UA Little Rock in Honor of Her Father

Elizabeth Bowles and her father Dixon Bowles
Elizabeth Bowles and her father Dixon Bowles

A gift from alumna Elizabeth Bowles, CEO of Aristotle Unified Communications, will create an endowed professorship of choral music at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Bowles’ donation of $250,000 will create the W.D. Bowles Endowed Professorship in Music in the School of Literary and Performing Arts. The professorship is named in honor of her father, Walter “Dixon” Bowles, who was the leader of the Dan Blocker Singers, a popular folk music choir in the late 1960s from Odessa, Texas.

“My father was passionate about education and passionate about helping people,” Bowles said. “I thought that honoring him with this endowment would be fitting because he cared deeply about the power of music and was a gifted choir director. I wanted to honor his roots.”

While living in Hollywood, the Dan Blocker Singers performed on “The Milton Berle Show” and “The Lucille Ball Show.” By 1968, however, the members of the Dan Blocker Singers had grown disenchanted with Hollywood.

“As he was driving to a screen test in Hollywood one day, my father realized he didn’t want a life in show business,” Bowles said. “My father was being hailed as the next James Dean, but that’s not the life he wanted.”

The Dan Blocker Singers
Dixon Bowles, far right, plays the guitar while performing with the Dan Blocker Singers on “The Milton Berle Show.”

At the invitation of a local minister, several members of the Dan Blocker Singers relocated to Big Piney, Arkansas, where they opened a dinner theater and ran the minister’s guest ranch. Dixon Bowles spent the rest of his life in Arkansas, where he went on to become a successful entrepreneur.

Dixon Bowles co-founded Aristotle, the Little Rock-based Internet service provider and web design company in 1995. Previously, he had founded The Group, Inc., an intentional community that managed the Lodge at Mount Magazine in the early ‘70s and opened popular dinner theaters in Greers Ferry, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, in the late ‘70s.

“Throughout every iteration of my father’s entrepreneurial journey, music always remained important to him, as it is to me,” Bowles notes. “I was a member of the youth choir my father directed, and in law school, I performed with the school’s acapella choir.”

The endowed professorship will attract and recruit highly qualified individuals to the position of professor, supplement university support for outstanding faculty, and provide the holder with the resources to make contributions in teaching, research, and public service.

“Dr. Kris McAbee and I are so grateful for Ms. Bowles’s recognition and support of the choral program at UA Little Rock,” said Stacy Pendergraft, co-director of the School of Literary and Performing Arts. “Under the leadership of Dr. Lorissa Mason, director of choral activities, the program has flourished. Dr. Mason’s expertise and artistry, along with her ceaseless efforts to provide student professionalization opportunities, are making tremendous strides towards putting the UA Little Rock choral program on the map.”

Bowles graduated summa cum laude from UA Little Rock in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies. She is an alumna of the Donaghey Scholars Honors Program, which provided her a full scholarship and the opportunity to study in Europe.

“The Donaghey Scholars Program provided excellent preparation for a career in the legal profession,” Bowles said. “The Socratic teaching methods, the debates with teachers, and the small class sizes all prepared me for law school. I think UA Little Rock gave me exactly what I needed to be successful at Vanderbilt Law School, and in fact, I graduated first in my law school class.”

Elizabeth Bowles
Elizabeth Bowles

After Vanderbilt, Bowles clerked for the Hon. Judge Richard Arnold, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and worked for five years at the law firm of Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. She moved back to Arkansas in 2000 to join Aristotle Internet Access, the company her father co-founded. When Dixon Bowles passed away in 2010, Bowles took over as chair of the board. In 2018, Bowles spun out Aristotle’s broadband division, Aristotle Unified Communications, into its own company so that she could focus on delivering broadband to unserved and underserved communities in historically overlooked areas of the state.

With this gift, Bowles hopes to provide other students with the same opportunities she had as a UA Little Rock student.

“I hope the donation helps the school attract a fantastic choral professor and that, as a result, other students get to have the type of experience at UA Little Rock that I did,” Bowles said.

You can find out more about how transformational gifts like this are making an impact at UA Little Rock by visiting the Centennial Campaign website.