‘Civility Goes a Long Way:’ The Story of Dale Bowry
Waking up in the morning can tend to be a little hectic. This is especially true for those, like myself, who often find themselves running late for the early 6:30 a.m. shacharit minyan at the Shenk Shul. In their efforts to expedite the lengthy five-minute “commute,” students, newlyweds and those who conveniently fit into both groups can be seen impetuously speed walking across Audubon Ave., regretting that they did not bring a sweatshirt to help themselves endure the cool morning winds. As the young men (and women) arrive at the shul, they quickly flash their student IDs from afar to the security guard, expediently cut through the long line of barricades and momentarily debate whether or not they should hold open the fast-swinging doors for the person a few steps behind.
The conclusion of the services at 7:10 a.m. roughly coincides with the “changing of the guard” in the small blue security booth out front. As the students exit the Shenk Shul, the recently arrived Dale Bowry stands outside the entrance returning “good morning” greetings and fist bumps. For those who do know Dale, he has a towering stature but is nevertheless a very friendly, insightful and calm person. However, Dale’s life goes far beyond the confines of his security role at YU.
Dale Bowry was born on the small Caribbean island of Nevis in 1959. At the age of four, he and his family immigrated to the United States and moved to Yonkers, NY. When reminiscing about his youth, Dale depicts the everyday bustle of the major streets and playgrounds in his neighborhood. Since his house was located at a dead end and near the parks, he regularly played sports with his friends—especially baseball. “We were right where it was happening,” he recalls.
After completing high school, Dale attended the now-defunct Elizabeth Seton Community College and graduated with a degree in liberal arts and natural sciences. Uncertain about which step to take next, he enrolled in nearby Iona College of New Rochelle before suddenly dropping out. “I didn’t have the community or personal support to encourage me,” Dale recollects. Fortunately, though, it did not take him long to find the community he was looking for. Soon after leaving Iona, Dale began clerking at a local sporting goods store where he enjoyed talking with his customers about baseball. In Dale’s mind, a job was no longer a place solely designated for earning a living and occupying oneself. It suddenly became a place where he can interact with and help others on a daily basis.
Four years ago, after years of employment at different clerk and security jobs, Dale arrived at Yeshiva University. Most often stationed at the Shenk Shul, Dale ensures that he is an “active observer,” going on hourly patrols in the area and regularly checking on the parking lot across the street. While on duty, Dale enjoys reading the YU student newspapers, articles about politics and having discussions with people about the etymology of certain English words. When he needs a break, Dale prefers the less populated loading dock behind Rubin Hall where he can watch a local raccoon jump into a dumpster. Despite there being nearly no interactions with students at this station, Dale enjoys the tranquility.
After engaging with the YU community for several years, Dale is confident that Judaism has impacted his own relationship with his Christianity. He regularly finds himself inspired by a community that emphasizes the importance of the individual’s connection to God and living a meaningful life. Dale particularly admires the students’ high level of commitment and consistency, specifically the learning and daily prayers.
While any daily routine can at times feel monotonous, Dale finds daily meaning and satisfaction through knowing that everything is in place and secure. He also emphasizes that “civility goes a long way.” While even a “hollow” expression of gratitude suffices, Dale appreciates how students at YU truly go out of their way to say “thank you,” demonstrating immense respect for him and his job. More powerful than this, though, are his daily interactions with particular people each morning. He looks forward to conversations with certain nice individuals and friendly confrontations with the mischievous people who try to enter without IDs.
However, one will not find Dale on campus anymore — even in his little booth next to the Shenk Shul. As of Sept. 22, Dale departed from his role at Yeshiva and began working at the New York State Family Court in White Plains, NY. As he reminisces about his time at YU, Dale is certain that he will miss the people most. While he is excited for his new position, Dale believes that it will be difficult to match such an outgoing community that is genuinely concerned about his well-being.
I believe I speak on behalf of everyone in thanking Dale for all that he has given to the Yeshiva University community. Dale is a true example of someone who performs his job with diligence while caring for those he is serving. While we are sad to see Dale leave, his emphasis on the importance of genuine friendliness and commitment to those around him is something we can take with us every day. As Dale remarked, “Civility goes a long way.” While we may think taking two minutes out of our days to speak with the workers at YU may have little impact, Dale has taught me that it truly makes a difference. Learning the names and stories of the security guards, cafeteria workers and librarians certainly allows them to find meaning and excitement on a daily basis. What may surprise you, though, is how much it will change your life as well.
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Photo Caption: Dale Bowry
Photo Credit: Dale Bowry