“Bowo” Poerwowidagdo ’61

Judowibowo "Bowo" Poerwowidagdo , Class of 1961
Judowibowo “Bowo” Poerwowidagdo , Class of 1961

My name is Judowibowo Poerwowidagdo. My nickname is “Bowo” not “Bobo”, although some friends seem to confuse my nickname and our school mascot. When I was in the final year of High School in Solo, Indonesia, I saw an ad about American Field Service Exchange Students Program. So I applied, passed the test, and was selected by the AFS Committee. I was notified that I would be enrolled at the Oakland Tech High School in Oakland, California. I was to stay with an American family, Mr. and Mrs. Giles B. Cropsey and their three children: Janet, Duane, and Damon, who was to be my classmate.

When I first come to Oakland Tech, I was impressed at the mixture of students: so many Afro-Americans and also many international students. I like the environment of this kind of mixture. There were many different clubs at Tech High. I joined several of them.

Here I want to share some memories of my time at Tech.

1. One day, I was summoned to the Vice Principal’s Office, Mr. Lucas. While waiting for him to call me in, there was another student (an Afro-American girl) who was to see Mr. Lucas also. While waiting, she took notice of me and remarked, “Gee man, how come you are so popular?” Apparently she saw my photograph stickers all over the school, on lockers, and on some walls in the corridors, and on some students’ schoolbags as well. I responded, “I don’t know. Maybe because I am an AFS student.” “What is an AFS student?” replied the girl. So I explained what the AFS meant. “I am an American Field Service Exchange Student to Oakland Tech. I come from Indonesia!” She said, “Okay!”

2. In one of the Student Council (Cabinet) meeting, a vote on some issue was about to be held. The President, Dwight Swobe said, “All in favour of the motion, please say aye.” Many students said “Ay.” I also followed by saying “Aye.” Then the President said, “Nay?” I was the only one who said “Nay.” Most students laughed. I didn’t know what we were doing, since I was not familiar with parliamentary procedures. Then Linda Higham, the Vice President explained to me that we were voting on a motion. ” ‘Aye’ means Yes, agree with the motion, and ‘Nay’ means No, against the motion. You cannot say Aye and Nay for the same motion.” I laughed at myself for my ignorance, and then I said, “Okay, I understand now.”

3. I was lucky to have two American foster families. On one December evening in 1960 a meeting of the American AFS Chapter at Oakland Tech High invited my American foster family and myself to discuss the decision of the AFS local chapter committee to move me from my American foster family, The Giles B. Cropsey’s family. The reason given was that I and my foster brother, Damon Cropsey didn’t get along well. Actually, that was not the case. Damon had his own friends and I had my own friends too. It was not enough for the AFS local committee. They expected that Damon and I should be together more. The committee has decided that I should move in with The John A. Blosser’s family. I remember that the Cropseys and I cried together. The next day I moved in with the Blossers. After this move, I still have good contact with the Cropseys. So I have two American foster families. My other foster brother is William (Bill) R. Blosser. They both are very good families. Lucky me.

After I graduated from Oakland Tech, I returned to Indonesia, and I enrolled at the Jakarta Theological Seminary. I graduated with a Bachelor of Theology degree. I got married in 1965 in West Irian (formerly Papua New Guinea). In 1966 I returned to California, to enroll at the San Francisco Theological Seminary at San Anselmo. I finished my M.A. degree in Christian Education at SFTS, and then I went to the University of Pittsburgh, to enroll in the Ph.D. program at the School of Education. I finished my Ph.D. degree in Foundations of Education in September 1972, and returned to Indonesia. In 1973 I joined the Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta and in 1980 became the Dean of the Faculty of Theology until 1985, and then became the President of the University until 1990. In 1990 – 1997 I went to work as Executive Secretary for Theological Education of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland and for two years after that became Consultant on Ecumenical Education of the World Council of Churches. From 2000 – 2002 I was appointed as President of Ukrida Christian University in Jakarta. From 2002-2009 I became Executive Director of an NGO, The Center for Empowering Reconciliation and Peace in Jakarta/Yogyakarta. From 2010 – 2015 I was appointed as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga.