Wilmette couple share a life of faith
4/24/12 Wilmette Kenneth and Mojgan Bowers on Tuesday, April 24th. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Kenneth E. Bowers and Mojgan Bowers
BEST KNOWN AS: He is a third generation Baha’i and Secretary General of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. She is a fourth generation Baha’i and sales representative for Abbott Labs. They’re a husband and wife team.
Updated: June 4, 2012 11:02AM
Mojgan Rezvani came to the United States in 1979 as a religious refugee, when her family’s Baha’i faith made their life in post-revolution Iran perilous. Kenneth Bowers grew up in Augusta, Georgia, where his family’s Baha’i faith and its belief in racial equality set him apart from a largely segregated society.
Today, as a husband and wife, the Wilmette couple still make their faith central to their lives.
Kenneth Bowers is Secretary-General of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. Last week he spoke in advance of ceremonies celebrating the 1912 cornerstone laying of Wilmette’s Baha’i House of Worship by Baha’i leader Abdu’l-Baha. Mojgan Bowers, a sales representative for Abbott Laboratories, joined him.
Although both Mojgan and Kenneth were raised in families where the Baha’i faith was practiced, they said they reached their own religious decisions independently.
“One of the most central tenets of the Baha’i religion is the independent investigation of truth,” Kenneth said. “You don’t inherit your faith.”
Instead, the Baha’i insistence on racial equality drew him, he said: “I grew up in a time and place of de facto segregation, in an outer community that told me integration was impossible. What I saw iin the Baha’i community told me exactly the opposite.”
The Baha’i emphasis on women’s equality “was key for me,” Mojgan said.
“I grew up in a very conservative society and what I saw in my own Baha’i community was an environment of equality. Almost all my female family members were highly educated, and that was a big factor for me.”
Mojgan’s family settled in Evanston, where she attended Nichols School before graduating from Evanston Township High School.
She met Kenneth through the local Baha’i community, while studying at Northwestern University toward a degree in broadcast journalism. Kenneth convinced her to transfer to the University of Georgia – his own alma mater – to continue her studies. In 1987 he also convinced her to marry him.
In 1991 the Bowers returned to Evanston when Kenneth, at the time a successful business owner in Atlanta, came to work at the Baha’i House of Worship for a year.
“Service is an important part of our faith, and I came here to give a year of service,” he said. “I never left.”
He served for 10 years as secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly’s national teaching committee. In 2002 he was elected to the Assembly, the annually elected body that governs Baha’i activities in the 48 continuous American states. He was elected as its secretary-general in 2007. Since then he has acted as the Assembly’s chief administrative officer.
Upon his election, the Bowers family, which now included daughter Mojdeh (now 21) and son Ford (now a 17-year-old student at New Trier High School), moved into the official residence of the secretary-general, across from the Baha’i House of Worship on Sheridan Avenue.
Mojgan, whose mother worked for the Assembly for many years, is as familiar with and dedicated to the concepts of service as her husband. In fact, Kenneth joked, “this job is very much a team effort.”
Despite the busy schedules their separate careers and shared faith mandate, the two make sure to find time for their family. Kenneth, who is also a published author, enjoys basketball as a devoted Chicago Bulls fan, while Mojgan relaxes by reading non-fiction, watching the History Channel, and enjoying science fiction shows like Doctor Who.
In June they will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
After almost a quarter of a century together, and a lifetime as Baha’is, “We consider service to our faith to be a privilege,” Kenneth said.
Asked about what they most would like the world to know about their faith, the couple had very similar wishes.
“I would love for people to know that the Baha’i House of Worship is open to the public, and in fact it was built for public use,” Kenneth said.
“It’s open to everyone, for investigation. Some people don’t realize that, but we’re very welcoming,” Mojgan added.