The Fowler Fountain
By Ben Nye (Arkansas)
The Fowler Fountain has stood watch over the back patio of the Headquarters Shrine for nearly 45 years. Added as part of the expansion of headquarters in 1969, the Fowler Fountain is dedicated to the memory of Northwestern alumnus and Gamma Beta Initiate Paul S. Fowler.
This winter, one of Fowler’s grandsons – – Chris Wolfe of Derry, N.H. – – came to visit the fountain that was dedicated in the honor of his grandfather. Over the course of the visit, several details emerged about the history of the man for whom the fountain is dedicated.
Paul Fowler was initiated at Northwestern in 1922. He was not the first Sigma Nu in the family as he was the nephew of Dr. Ora Fowler, the first initiate of Gamma Kappa (Colorado) Chapter and long-time Division Commander. His undergraduate career included his service as chapter Reporter, involvement with the school’s theatre department and ROTC. Following his graduation in 1925, Fowler moved to London to manage his father’s business, Fowler Packing Co. which was one of the U.K.’s major importers of natural casings. He and his family; Wife Ella; Daughters Alta, Paula and Jean and Son Gordon, lived in the St. Johns Wood neighborhood of London.
When France surrendered to the invading German army in 1940, Fowler sent his family back to the US with an envelope to be opened upon arrival. In it were instructions to contact Sigma Nu and seek their guidance. They were instructed to drive to Lexington from New York City and upon their arrival, a house on White Street was rented and all four children were enrolled in school. This marked the beginning of the Fowler’s 34 years in Lexington.
Paul, who served during World War II, became a dual commissioned officer in the British and US Armies, retiring as major. It is believed that he was the only officer with simultaneous army commissions during WWII. Fowler’s military service consisted of negotiating land purchases for Allied bases as they marched across Europe to Germany.
Following the war, Fowler joined his family in Lexington. Paul and Wife Ella started a real estate company known as Fowler Enterprises, which was located on Main Street in downtown Lexington.
In 1955, Fowler was put in touch with former Executive Secretary Dick Fletcher (Penn State) to assist in locating a potential home for Sigma Nu headquarters. This began a two year correspondence between the two men that included Fowler presenting Fletcher with multiple property options in Lexington. Ironically, Fletcher was unaware of Fowler’s belonging to the roles of Sigma Nu. Fletcher, after an exchange over the phone, learned of his ignorance and was pleased to declare Fowler, “a brother in the bonds.”
Although the final location and sale of the property that became Sigma Nu’s home was credited to another agent – – W.E. Tilson was the agent that located the Smith property – – there can be no doubt that Fowler was vital in assisting Sigma Nu in its search for a permanent home.
In 1958, Paul Fowler passed away – – scarcely four months after Sigma Nu’s move to Lexington. His surviving wife and children sought an opportunity to memorialize his love for Sigma Nu, which presented itself ten years later. Ella Fowler and her children donated the fountain that rests on the Memorial Terrace after Dick Fletcher made a request in The Delta for a donation of a two-leveled fountain.
It is a fitting reminder of a man who found his home in Lexington and in turn helped Sigma Nu return to its home.
Visitors in Lexington
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As I understand, headquarters was moved to Lexington in February 1958. It is located right across the street from Stonewall Jackson Hospital, where I was born in February 1958. My dad worked as an agent for Mr. Tilson while we lived in Natural Bridge. I try to get by Sigma Nu every time I get back to the valley.