Remembering Cecelia “Miss Ceil” Bowens

(photo courtesy of McDaniel Agents of Change)

“I don’t even like the break. I just like takin’ care of you guys,” said Ceil Bowens in a 2009 interview with the Free Press.

On Friday, Nov. 26, the McDaniel community lost our Mother of Glar, Cecelia “Miss Ceil” Bowens. Miss Ceil was a staple within the McDaniel community over  the past 55 years, working endlessly and being the bridge of the Green Terror family across generations. 

“Miss Ceil kept me grounded during my four years on the Hill. She poured into me advice that remains a foundation in my professional and personal life today. Each time I swiped into Glar she would check in on me and make sure I was doing alright. Times were up and down at McDaniel, as with any student navigating college, but Miss Ceil made it known that she was rooting for all of us,” said Roger Isom Jr ’16. 

Perhaps one of the biggest things I, and so many members of the McDaniel community, will miss is the personal connection every time we found ourselves within the Englar Hall. Without fail, we were her “babies”. At the end of every dining hall line waited a person who went through the effort of creating a connection between the students and herself. Miss Ceil made the conscious effort to care about us, a comfort felt by thousands of students, staff, and faculty over the years.

“I had the pleasure of introducing my daughter to Miss Ceil when we were on campus for homecoming this year. She had the same big smile (even behind the mask) and a warm “hi baby” for us both. She was excited to meet my future Green Terror , Allie, (she’s 10) and joked that she wouldn’t be here when Allie was a student after insisting on treating her to an ice cream. Little did I know that would be our last interaction. The love that Miss Ceil poured into each of us will never be forgotten,” said Elton Knupp ’00.

Though the McDaniel experience varies from person to person, class to class, generation to generation, throughout the past 55 years, we’ve all been able to share the sensation of a Glar experience molded by Miss Ceil. Even as the years pass and we all transition onto next stages of life, McDaniel students remember Miss Ceil and the warmth she would spread.

Miss Ceil was a presence felt in the dining hall, always acting with benevolence. For so many of us, her impact was emotional, social, and practical. Through advice, uplifting interactions, or any broad help within the realm of our dining hall, Miss Ceil would be there. But when remembering Miss Ceil, it’s worth remembering just how much she’s impacted some individuals. In 2007, Miss Ceil, known fondly as our “Glardian”, recognized that one of her coworkers, Helen Barrick, was feeling unwell. Barrick first rested at a table, going to the bathroom after still not feeling well. When they failed to return, it was Miss Ceil who checked on her, and was able to get help after realizing that Barrick was having a heart attack. On that Jan. day, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to recognize that her awareness for her peers had saved a life. 

“Miss Ceil could tell if a student was not feeling well emotionally and would know just what to say in her soft voice, the perfect thing that individual needed to hear that day,” said Christianna Leahy, PhD., political science professor. 

Miss Ceil’s impact was felt by the entirety of the campus, not just the students. One of her most notable traits was the empathy she portrayed for all levels of McDaniel involvement. Miss Ceil cared about the community in a way like no other, and took pride in her love. 

“She greeted me, as a new person. I was surprised! There were so many people going in and out of the cafeteria, so I asked, ‘How do you know I’m new?’  And she smiled her big smile and said, not talking down, not condescendingly, but she said, ‘Oh, It’s not long before I know everybody. Welcome! You have your ID with you?’ She was all business, and at the same time gentle, kind, and welcoming. Such a smile you remember for years,” said Peter Lynn, IT helpdesk coordinator. 

A winner of McDaniel’s Phenomenal Women Staff Award in 2019, Miss Ceil cultivated a dining hall culture that was one of love and community. For so many, they cannot separate their dining hall experience from the loving influence of Miss Ceil. With Glar being such a catalyst for the bonds we’ve all had the opportunity to create over the years, it was Miss Ceil who was the harbinger of these communal ties. 

When writing this, it was truly incredible to see the pouring in of responses that highlight just how much of a positive force Miss Ceil was for the McDaniel family across generations. Responses coming from every level of engagement to the school, with former students spanning decades wishing to convey just how much of their McDaniel experience was molded by her. From her constant feuding with that machine, to singing religious tunes for students that are feeling down, Miss Ceil left an impression on this college. She was a constant, and to think of the McDaniel community within the past 50 years was to think of her.

 I’m going to miss her, I think we all will.