Remembering Bob Owen

April 26, 2024 | 2-3 min read

Florida College remembers the life and legacy of Bob Owen, who served as the third president of FC from 1982-1991. On April 13, 2024, at the age of 94, President Owen passed away peacefully, leaving a legacy of gospel preaching along with 40 years of teaching and working with young people. A friend and encourager to many, his sharp wit, spiritual focus and kind words endured until his last days, leaving an indelible imprint on the Florida College community that will remain for generations.

“When Bob Owen was at Florida College and in the subsequent decades, he was well known as a mentor to many of our students,” observes Dr. John Weaver, current president of Florida College, “A remarkable number of past students have reached out and shared with me how Bob’s guidance in their lives put them on the right course or caused them to course correct. He truly was a life changer for many young people.”

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, President Owen moved to Temple Terrace with his wife Janelle in 1952, beginning a lifetime commitment of service to God by preaching for congregations in Clearwater, Tampa and Largo while teaching speech and Bible classes at his “beloved Florida College.”

“When I first started teaching at Florida College, my salary was $175 a month, and it was a tough time,” he recounted in a 2020 video message to students. “It was worth it because of the people. The people who made the sacrifice to be a part of Florida College.”

In July 1954 he and Janelle, along with three other couples, started the first Florida College summer camp to provide recreation and Bible study opportunities for local children. The camp’s potential as a recruitment tool was soon realized by administrators, and camps slowly opened nationwide.

“It not only introduced young people to the college campus idea, but was a place that brought together our supporters and kept them in tune with what was going on at the college,” he said years later. “That has proven to be a wonderful tool.”

He went on to serve as Dean of Students, Business Administrator and Assistant to the President. In July 1982 he was named the third president of Florida College following the retirement of James Cope.

During Owen’s presidency, the Teaching Auditorium named to honor Franklin T. Puckett (1982), computer classes began (1983), the pink marble chip sign was erected on the corner of Bullard and Glen Arven (1983) and Henderson Cafeteria opened (1985).

His heart for service was further evidenced by his years as an elder at the University church of Christ in Tampa, as well as his decades-long support of the people of Ethiopia. At age 60, he discovered a love for the country and people and would make a yearly pilgrimage for nearly two decades to help spread the gospel. His influence, along with the work of many others, continues to provide development for preachers in over 300 congregations every year.

Owen’s dear friend Mike Benson, Sr. remembers, “Bob Owen made a significant impact on countless lives through his godly example and wise counsel based on God’s word. His many years of service to Florida College informed and inspired generations of students. After spending most of his adult life preaching he served as an elder at University church of Christ. He nurtured and protected the flock there for several years and influenced many for good.”

During his 70 years in Temple Terrace, Owen was very active in the community, where he was known as an avid golfer. He was elected as a City Councilman and served for many terms, was in the Civitan Club for several years and a lifetime member of the North Tampa Rotary Club. While he is no longer with us in body, his thoughtful words, steady wisdom and Godly example will continue into eternity through the hearts of those whose paths he crossed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time.