Charles Henry Schowe

1881 - 1952

Charles Schowe, a native Australian and pioneer Seventh-day Adventist educator, taught at what is known today as Avondale College for thirty-two years, one of its first teachers to have a significant tenure at the school.  Following his retirement in 1949, at the request of the denomination he completed a manuscript of the school's early history.

Charles was born in Springwood, NSW, Australia, on December 27, 1881, one of three children and the only son of Charles Frederick and Hariet Jane Wynter Schowe. The family joined the SDA church when he was fourteen, and two years later he enrolled at the Avondale School for Christian Workers, now Avondale College.  At the insistence of his father, an educator in the government school system, he earned a teaching certificate in the governmemnt system.

He first worked as secretary-treasurer of the New South Wales Conference and then returned to Avondale where he graduated from the Biblical-Academic Course in 1909. He was hired to teach New Testament Greek and history classes for the next school year and at the end of that school year, on November 29, 2010, he married Winifred Elvina Trunk, a member of the college faculty who had come from the United States to teach two years earlier.

Schowe , a pianist, was assigned to head the music department the following year when Jessie Paap, who had been teaching music at the for the past eleven years, left with her husband to return to the U.S. As a student, and later as a teacher, he earned certificates and diplomas in music through Trinity College in London and the Sydney Conservatorium programs in Australia.  During his first year of music leadership, the school changed its name and continued its efforts, underway since 1909, to upgrade its offerings in an attempt to gain credibilty in the Australian educational system.

Benjamin F. Machlan, the new principal who had arrived in 1909, was intent on improving and having greater control over what was happening academically and musically on campus. Among other initiatives, he established a music committee to review and approve what musicians and groups, including the choir, orchestra, and band, could present.

Showe, a versatile and talented person who conducted the orchestra, choir, and band and taught voice, piano, and violin lessons, cooperated with this committee and worked within Machlan's vision for higher standards. He encouraged his music students to take the exams necessary to gain diplomas and certificates through the Trinity College in London and Sydney Conservatorium programs in Australia. With the heightened interest at the college for credibility, the success of the several AMC students who achieved this recognition had to be gratifying.

Although Schowe also developed a four-year music program that went into effect in 1913, only four students would complete it, due to a lowering in academic standards that started in the middle of that decade. While the second decade in the 20th century had started with efforts to improve the academic program, by the time the 1920s started, standards had dramatically eroded. Several well-intentioned but poorly qualified principals, acting in concert with the board, had succeeded in eviscerating the academic program.

In 1916 Schowe's administrative responsibilities on campus were expanded and aspects of the music program, including lessons and the band and orchestra, were parceled out to private teachers. The Choral Society, however, continued under his leadership. At the end of his last year at AMC he led the choir in a presentation of portions of Handel's Messiah, a first for the college.

Schowe in reality was acting principal for most of 1917. Throughout these years of uncertainty, he was an active advocate for increasing academic standards while successive principals and boards consisting mostly of ministers were arguing for Bible- and Spirit of Prophecy-based curriculums and classes. In 1918 Schowe and his wife resigned in protest over changes in the school's offerings that dramatically lowered scholastic standards. During the next decade he served as a headmaster in a school in Sydney and as principal of Greater New York Academy in the United States.

In 1927 Schowe and his wife were invited to return to the college, he to teach history and languages but not music because of the onset of deafness. He would teach and serve as part-time librarian through the 1949 school year, when he retired after teaching at the school for 32 years. In that year he began writing a college history at the request of the denomination, completing the manuscript in 1950 or 1951. This would be a helpful resource for the first half-century of the school when the centennial history of the school, Experiment on the Dora, by Milton Hook was prepared and published in 1998.

Showe was later described by Noel Clapham, editor of Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific (156), as a thin man who walked with a "stiff pride and military swing of the arms," a man who had a "whimsical smile, a sense of humor, and a very kind heart." He was "engrossed in the life of the college," and along with his wife, was regarded with affection by the students.

The Schowes were living in Wahroonga when he died on May 27, 1952, age age 71. Winifred died on April 9, 1957, at age 72.  Although the Schowes had had three children, only two, Charles Frederick and Eleanor Ferne survived their parents.


Sources: A.G. Stewart,  “A Most Commendable Career,” Australasian Record, 16 June 1952, 8; Information found in the Avondale College centennial history, Avondale, Experiment on the Dora, Milton Hook, Avondale Academic Press, 1998, 59,76, 87-89, 93,94,101, 104-111, 119, 121; 125, 153; Obituary for his wife, The Australasian Record and World Survey, 27 May 1957, 15; Noel Clapham, Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific, 1885-1995, 1985.