Beloved by the SFCM community, Bowes was a longtime supporter of the school and dedicated trustee of 22 years, serving as vice-chair since 2003.
”There are those few individuals who transform our lives in remarkable ways, and Bill Bowes was foremost among them,” said SFCM President David H. Stull. “His warmth and quiet leadership will be deeply missed at SFCM, and his legacy will forever be a part of our school.”
Bowes was a man of few words and deep insight whose leadership helped SFCM to become a world-class institution for top-tier students and faculty. During his tenure on the board, SFCM successfully relocated to its home at 50 Oak Street in San Francisco's Civic Center and through his support founded two groundbreaking programs in Technology and Applied Composition and Roots, Jazz, and American Music. He was instrumental in supporting the procurement of real estate on the corner of Hayes and Van Ness which is slated to serve as the home to a new performing arts center and residential community for SFCM, in addition to replacement housing for existing tenants at that location.
"Bill was a friend and a mentor," said Timothy W. Foo, Chair of SFCM’s Board of Trustees. "I shall miss him greatly." Foo described Bowes as a “true visionary” with a rare understanding of “where we have been and where we need to go.”
Born in San Francisco in 1926, Bowes graduated from Lowell High School in 1942. His father, William K. Bowes, was a businessman, and his mother, Ruth Garland, was a distinguished physician and one of the first women to graduate from the Stanford School of Medicine, where she later taught. Bowes served in the United States Army infantry in the South Pacific and Japan during and after World War II. Following his service, Bowes earned a BA in economics from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard. In 1965, he married his wife Ute, and the couple resided in Bowes’ native San Francisco for over 50 years.
Bowes first made a name for himself as a venture capitalist, fostering significant innovation and growth through strategic investments. He began his career with Blyth & Co., the predecessor to Blyth Eastman Paine Webber, serving as senior vice president and director before co-founding U.S. Venture Partners (USVP) in 1981. Prior to founding USVP, Bowes had success funding a number of companies, including Cetus, Raychem, and Dymo Industries. He led USVP investments in Advanced Cardiovascular Systems, Applied Biosystems, Sun Microsystems, Glycomed, Ventritex, and others. He was a founding investor in Amgen, serving as its first chairman and treasurer.
Bowes described the appeal of SFCM's unique approach to music education as "taking young people and developing them, [which is] venture capital in a different sense." A fan of jazz and cabaret as well as early music, baroque, and opera, Bowes believed that music is “fundamental [because it’s] just good for the soul.” His inspiring leadership and generous financial contributions to SFCM have helped the school to become a beacon of conservatory education in the 21st century.
SFCM honored the modest and pithy Bowes at its 2016 gala with an evening of performances and a video tribute to him. In his interview, Bowes spoke about his appreciation for the discipline of music education, sharing this simple fact: “music makes me happy.”
A brilliant innovator and philanthropist, Bowes brought joy to so many in the community, including hundreds of gifted young music students who have been able to pursue their dreams at SFCM. He will be deeply missed by the SFCM community.