Deaths: Eva Rocek, H. Woods Bowman

Eva Rocek

Eva Rocek, pictured here in 1994, was an assistant professor of chemistry, an award-winning teacher and a Holocaust survivor. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Eva Rocek, chemistry

Eva Rocek, 88, assistant professor of chemistry emerita, an award-winning teacher at UIC and a Holocaust survivor who later made a daring escape with her family from Communist Czechoslovakia, died June 28 at her home in Delaware.

She joined the UIC chemistry faculty in 1969 with her husband, Jan Rocek, who was chair of the department from 1980 to 1993. They retired in 1994.

At a campus presentation in 1994, angry about statements from Holocaust deniers, she spoke publicly for the first time about her childhood experiences.

“The statistics are that 85 percent of Czech Jews were wiped out,” she said in an April 6, 1994, UIC News interview.

Born in Prague, she was 11 when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. She was deported with her mother and father to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in July 1942, where she worked as a field hand. She met Rocek, her future husband, at the camp.

In 1944, at age 17, she and her parents were transported to Auschwitz, where her father died. She and her mother survived another concentration camp, escaped during a forced march to another near the war’s end, and made their way back to Prague, where she found Jan. She completed her high school education and earned master’s and doctoral degrees, then worked in pharmaceutical research. They married in 1947 and had two sons.

The two escaped Communist Czechoslovakia in 1960, jumping off an East German ship and swimming to shore with her mother and her small children.

At UIC, she taught general chemistry, twice winning the student-selected Silver Circle Teaching Award.

“She mentored me, sharing her materials and her wisdom and much good advice,” said Sharon Fetzer Gislason, a long-time colleague in the department of chemistry.

“She was very warm, kind and always welcoming,” said chemistry professor Michael Trenary. “I have a lot of great memories.”

After she and her husband retired from UIC, they settled in Delaware, traveled extensively and wrote their memoirs. Her work, “Shakespeare Saved My Life,” is online.

In addition to her husband and sons, Rocek is survived by four grandchildren. In her memory, the family suggests contributions to the International Rescue Committee.



H. Woods Bowman, economics

H. Woods Bowman

H. Woods Bowman

H. Woods “Woody” Bowman, 73, a former state legislator and UIC faculty member, died Friday after a car accident in Michigan. His wife, Michele Thompson, former secretary of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, remains hospitalized.

Bowman was an assistant professor of economics at UIC from 1971 to 1976 and an adjunct associate professor until 1980.

A political independent, he served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1976 to 1990 and led the House Appropriations Committee for seven years.

“He will be remembered as a major political figure in Illinois and part of the reform movement that attempted to break the control of machine politics and old-fashioned government,” said Dick Simpson, professor of political science. “What independents remember most about him is how he remained true to the principles of the independent movement throughout his career.”

Bowman met Thompson, his wife of nearly 30 years, after she testified on behalf of the university at a legislative committee session, Simpson said.

“He was smitten by her,” Simpson said.

Bowman was chief financial officer for Cook County from 1991 to 1994. He returned to academia in 1995 as an assistant professor at DePaul University, retiring as professor emeritus in DePaul’s School of Public Service.

In retirement, Bowman and Thompson enjoyed attending cultural events and exhibits. They were traveling to the Detroit Institute of Arts at the time of the crash.

Bowman recently was economic adviser to Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s mayoral campaign, Simpson said.

Simpson had planned to meet them Monday so the couple could donate books for the Books for Africa project to replenish Sierra Leone libraries after the country’s civil war.

A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Bowman received bachelor’s degrees in physics and economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s in public administration and Ph.D. in economics from Syracuse University.

Thompson retired in January 2012 after 35 years with the university, including 21 as secretary of the board. The conference rooms in Student Center West, where board meetings are held at UIC, were renamed the Michele M. Thompson Conference Rooms.


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