John Wesley Edward Bowen
John Wesley Edward Bowen earned a PhD at Boston University in Theology with extra work in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, German, and Arabic. Born in 1855, Bowen was the first African-American born a slave to earn a PhD in the United States (BU 1887). He moved to Atlanta, GA, where he was the first Black professor at Gammon Theological Summary. He married Ariel Serena Hedges (Bowen), herself a Professor of Music at Clark College in Atlanta. They had four children. Bowen’s essay, “An Apology for the Higher Education of the Negro” (Methodist Review, 1897) spoke passionately about higher education and Classical Studies. Bowen died in 1933 at the age of 78.
Helen Magill earned a PhD in Greek in 1877 at the Department of Classical Studies at Boston University, the first woman ever to receive a doctorate in any subject in the United States. She served as a principal at a secondary school in Johnston, PA, and then later became an instructor at Evelyn College for Women, an institution associated with Princeton University. After marrying Andrew White, the cofounder and first president of Cornell University, she accompanied him to diplomatic posts in St. Petersburg and Berlin, then spent her later years in Ithaca, NY. Dr. Magill White passed in 1944 at the age of 90.