Scott and Anita Bowman.
Scott and Anita Bowman.

BIG READ: CQUni boss plans to rekindle teen travel passion

THEY met as teenagers on the back of a truck, travelling along the northern extremes of the Sahara Desert.

For hours the pair discussed their dreams and planned their explorations across the globe.

She told him to be prepared to move to Australia with her if they were going to have a future together.

Two children, prestigious careers and an international move later, Scott and Anita Bowman are casting aside the chains of professional life to embrace the wild, wandering spirits of their teenage selves again.

In many ways, Scott is the opposite of what you'd expect from a university vice-chancellor.

Friendly and approachable, he doesn't carry the air of accomplishment associated with a life of academia, despite donning the appropriate gowns for graduation ceremonies.

In many ways, Scott's journey from Northamptonshire in England's Midlands to being a driving force behind CQUniversity's expansion from Rockhampton university to national brand is an example of the egalitarianism for which Australia is famed.

READ: CQUni boss announces retirement, vows never to work for another university

Although the tiny village of Burton Latimer is only an hour's drive from Cambridge, Scott's upbringing could not have been further from the prestige and privilege for which the university is famed.

A reflection of his "working class" background, Scott's dad worked a range of jobs from factory hand to milkman.

"You went to wherever the money was best," he said.

"It was about what was best for our family and you just did that. Mum was the same."

 

Scott Bowman in his late teens.
Scott Bowman in his late teens.

Unlike many academics in the same position, school was not Scott's forte.

In fact, he admits he failed dismally.

Despite a childhood Scott remembers as overwhelmingly loving and happy, higher education is something he said would have been akin to declaring a desire to visit Mars.

Instead, Scott trained as a radiographer at the Northampton School of Radiography.

It was during a holiday from this course he met the woman who would change the course of his life.

Anita and Scott, both about 19, met on the back of a truck travelling through Morocco and the northern areas of the Sahara Desert.

He said there was an instant connection but there was a caveat on a relationship.

Anita had spent a gap year in Australia and fell in love with the people and the sunburnt land so different from her English heritage.

More than three decades later and Scott is still quick to point out Anita was the "really clever" one in their relationship, on holiday in Morocco during a break in her own medical studies.

When they returned to England, they kept in touch until Scott finished training and could move to London where Anita was based.

 

Anita Bowman during her gap year in Australia.
Anita Bowman during her gap year in Australia.

Although they had grand plans for travelling the world, those were soon put on hold as the couple welcomed two children, Anneka and Adam.

Scott continued to work as a senior radiographer in a number of hospitals in London before moving into teaching at several universities.

Eventually the couple fulfilled their dream to move to Australia and Scott began to work his way through the ranks of Australian universities.

Having been the foundation dean of the Faculty of Health Science and Community at St Martins before moving to Australia, Scott became the head of the School of Medical Radiations at Charles Sturt University.

He worked at the University of South Australia and James Cook University before his appointment as vice-chancellor and president of CQUniversity.

Now a professor, Scott's career has become more than he could have imagined as a young boy.

Not one to waste the privilege this career has afforded him, one of Scott's proudest achievements at CQUniversity was to widen the participation of people who never dreamt university was a path for them.

"It's the students we've managed to take the blindfold off and show them the opportunities and get them onto enabling programs and onto degrees to graduate as physiotherapists, teachers and journalists," he said.

 

The truck Scott and Anita Bowman were travelling on in the Sahara Desert when they met as teens.
The truck Scott and Anita Bowman were travelling on in the Sahara Desert when they met as teens.

"People who come from my kind of background where that would just be a dream."

For nine years, almost 10 by the time they depart at the end of the year, CQUniversity has been Anita and Scott's whole world.

They lived on campus and after working all day attended countless official functions.

When Anita joined the university as an associate professor in 2010, she developed the first four-year combined bachelor and graduate diploma course in medical sonography in Australia.

She has continued to develop health courses at the university since then.

Scott said it was time they took a break from their rigorous roles and enjoyed retirement while they were still able to travel the world.

 

The all terrain vehicle Scott and Anita Bowman plan to travel the world in.
The all terrain vehicle Scott and Anita Bowman plan to travel the world in.

They've bought an all-terrain truck and plan to drive around the world for the next decade, kicking off in Canada.

"I'm really looking forward to not getting 200 emails a day," Scott said.

"I think having time to do what you want is going to be fantastic.

"I think the really scary things about it are not getting 200 emails a day and not having your time planned out for you."

The other fear for Scott and Anita is whether a life on the road will carry enough meaning to keep them sustained, given the hectic pace they've set for the past decade.

"The scary thing is, I think, moving away from work," Scott said.

"It's a long time where you go out to work and that's what you do, that's what my family did too and then to think that you won't be working, it is a big move.

"To go away from a job that has just been completely part of your life for 24 hours a day - to think that's going to stop is quite difficult."

Inspired by the direction of CQUniversity's philanthropy program, including putting Indian orphans through university, Scott and Anita also plan to volunteer where they can along the journey.

While he will stay in touch with former colleagues, perhaps joining the millions of travel bloggers on the web, Scott has vowed to truly depart the university.

"Never say never but I don't want to be hanging around in the background like a bad smell for the new vice-chancellor - they will need to find their own direction," Scott said.

"The thought of having nothing to do with this organisation I've loved so much is difficult but I know it's got to happen. You've got to move on to the next stage of your life.

"I think pretty quickly you become part of the history instead of part of the future and I'm resigned to that."