Sharon Anthony Bower
Dec. 9, 1932-April 9, 2023
Sharon Anthony Bower was born in Minneapolis to Lorenzo Anthony and Lois Dahl Anthony on December 9, 1932—the year that Laura Ingalls Wilder began publishing the Little House on the Prairie series. Three years later, Sharon’s father joined a law firm in the prairie town of St. Peter, where she grew up.
Sharon recalled that her victory in a foot race against the boys in fourth grade resulted in an awkward silence rather than cheers. Running on, she was the 1950 Salutatorian at St. Peter High and graduated Magna Cum Laude from local Gustavus Adolphus College in 1954.
Sharon remembered seeing her father argue cases before the state supreme court as a girl. He inspired her to excel at debate. She regretted not overcoming the mores of the day to obtain a law degree like her father and younger brother.
Instead, she earned a Master’s degree in theater from Northwestern University in 1955. She taught theater and speech for two years at Louisiana State University--which had just admitted its first black student. The 1956 Hungarian Revolution drove ticket sales of Sharon’s LSU production of the Hungarian play Liliom (which inspired the musical Carousel).
Baton Rouge opened Sharon’s eyes to the injustices of Jim Crow. She also helped a friend there recover from a botched abortion, making Sharon a pro-choice feminist to the end. Sharon’s feisty outspokenness would delight friends—and intimidate fools—in the decades to come.
At age 19 Sharon attended a 1952 summer democracy workshop in New York City conducted by the American Ethical Union, a liberal, humanist group. There she met Eleanor Roosevelt and a tall, lanky Ohio boy who matched her pace. Sharon and Gordon Bower married in 1957 in Connecticut, where the groom was obtaining a PhD in experimental psychology at Yale. When Stanford University hired Gordon in 1959, the couple drove west—stopping in St. Peter to give birth to Lori.
While raising three children, Sharon earned a Stanford Master’s degree in counseling psychology in 1973. She taught public speaking and assertiveness at nearby colleges and universities, as tech companies replaced the surrounding fruit orchards. She was a self-help publishing pioneer, writing Painless Public Speaking, The Assertive Advantage and Asserting Yourself. The latter book, co-written with Gordon in 1976, was published in eight languages and is still in print. Leveraging her debate, acting, directing and psychology skills, Sharon formed the consulting firm Confidence Training. It honed the communications skills of the talent at Apple, HP, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and the “Baby Bells.”
Sharon received the Gustavus Adolphus “Outstanding Business Award” in 1981. She headed the board of Mountain View’s TheatreWorks in 1991. The couple befriended leading research psychologists and traveled through Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Americas. They visited the White House when Gordon received the Presidential Medal of Science in 2007.
In her later years, Sharon sustained two blows. Her 99-year-old mother, Lois—an endless source of support and laughter—died in St. Peter in 2005. Gordon, her beloved partner of 68 years, died at home in Stanford in 2020. Nevertheless, Sharon was a reliable source of no-nonsense encouragement and fierce love to her five grandchildren, who called her “Meema.” Her devotion and delight in her children, and their children, will be dearly missed.
Sharon’s survivors include her brother and sister-in-law, Marshall and Janet Anthony, her three children, Lori, Anthony and Julia Bower, and her five talented grandchildren: Eleanor and Ana Neifeld, Micah and Nicholas Wheat, and Esmé Bower.
Tags: teacher/educator, business