Theodore Barrows Stowell (1847-1916), a prominent Rhode Island educator, served as president of Bryant & Stratton Commercial College (now Bryant University) for nearly four decades. A native of Connecticut and descended from one of New England’s earliest settlers, Stowell was drawn to the profession of teaching, and upon graduation from the Connecticut State Normal School, accepted a position with the Toilsome Hill District in Bridgeport. By 1870, he had relocated to Rhode Island joining the teaching staff at Bristol Ferry School in Portsmouth. Soon his talents were recognized and less than two years later, Stowell received an offer from a fledgling business college in Downtown Providence to become a member of its teaching staff.
Bryant and Stratton Business College had been established by two local businessmen in 1863, operating out of the Howard Building on Dorrance Street. Stowell was not only a good teacher, but an entrepreneur as well. In 1878, six years after joining the faculty, Stowell bought out the interests of the founders, moved to more spacious quarters in the Hoppin Homestead Building on Westminster Street, and installed himself as president of the college. Under his thirty-eight year stewardship, Bryant and Stratton grew and prospered. In June 1915 Brown University awarded Stowell an honorary degree, and a year later, even though in ill health, Stowell successfully negotiated the consolidation of the Rhode Island Commercial School with Bryant and Stratton. He was chosen as president emeritus in April 1916, one month before succumbing to a long term illness.
After relocating to a modern eight-story building on the corner of Fountain and Union Streets (still standing) in 1925, and a later move to Providence’s East Side, the college relocated to a suburban campus in Smithfield in 1971. Today, Bryant University enjoys a reputation as one of the region’s preeminent business colleges.