Ann S. Bowers 1937-2024

Philanthropist and Advocate of Innovation, Education and Leadership, Ann S. Bowers, Dies

Ann Schmeltz Bowers, a technology industry executive pioneer and longtime philanthropist who inspired the founding of the UC Noyce Initiative, died on January 24, 2024, at her home in Palo Alto, California. She was 86.

Bowers was a business executive who served as the first director of personnel for Intel Corporation and the first vice president of human resources for Apple, Inc. She also was the wife of the late Robert N. Noyce, Ph.D., who was the co-founder of Intel and inventor of the integrated circuit, which fueled the personal computer revolution and gave Silicon Valley its name. 

From a blue-collar town onto Cornell
Ann S Bowers as young woman

Born in Pennsylvania on November 27, 1937, Bowers grew up in the blue-collar town of Oakmont and spent her summers near Long Island Sound where she learned to sail and play the piano. Known for her small frame, quick mind and blunt manner, Bowers attended Cornell University and served as her dormitory’s president and a yearbook editor. She graduated in 1959 with double majors in English and psychology. She would later earn an honorary Ph.D. in public service from Santa Clara University in 2000.

Bowers’ first job out of college was working as a management trainee at Macy’s store in Union Square. Bowers was drawn to a career in retail because she observed that “it was one of the few businesses in which women wielded any real authority,” according to a 2004 interview with Leslie Berlin, author of The Man Behind the Microchip. Bowers worked for three years as the head of personnel at a small laser and medical equipment startup and two years as a teacher in San Jose before joining Intel.

A trail blazer in tech

Bowers was a trail blazer in tech in her own right by being one of the only female executives in the semiconductor industry during the founding of the tech industry in the 1960s. She became head of personnel for Intel in 1969 when she was in her early 30s. In this position, Bowers oversaw recruitment, benefits, salary, training and performance reviews as Intel grew from 200 to 2500 employees. She helped lead Intel through several attempts by outside entities to unionize the company. Her efforts helped create a lasting culture at Intel and, indirectly, at tech companies throughout Silicon Valley of employees receiving competitive compensation packages – a benefit that many in the tech industry enjoy to this day. 

“Ann was a forward-thinking leader who dedicated much of her life to fostering and creating environments where technologists and innovators could thrive,” said Kavita Bala, the inaugural dean of Cornell University Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, in a Cornell University press release. “Her commitment to building a culture of creativity, excellence and collaboration will forever be remembered.”

Woman wearing sunglasses and man wearing glasses smile as they ride a dirt bike
Marrying Robert Noyce

Bowers met Noyce while working at Intel and the couple were married on November 27, 1975 as part of the Noyce family’s Thanksgiving dinner and on Bowers’ 38th birthday. The two were married for about 15 years until Noyce passed away from a stroke on June 3, 1990.

An entrepreneur then Apple

Soon after marrying Noyce, Bowers left Intel to start her own human resources consulting firm. She also co-founded the California Electronics Association to help small electronic companies with their human resources needs. One of Bowers first clients was a small startup company called Apple, led by Steve Job and Steve Wozniak. It was through Bowers that Noyce and Jobs forged a friendship and mentorship relationship. Bowers joined Apple as the vice president of human resources in August of 1980 just a few months before Apple went public. 

 
A visionary philanthropist

After Noyce’s passing, Bowers became a very involved and active philanthropist. In 1990, Bowers worked with other members of the Noyce family to establish the Noyce Foundation in honor of her late husband. Bowers was chair of the board and co-founding trustee of the nonprofit that focused on improving math and science instruction and learning in K-12 public schools.

She was an influential philanthropist at her alma mater Cornell having gifted more than $100 million to the university during her lifetime, including a name gift to create the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science. Bowers’ generosity also supported Cornell faculty and students in the liberal arts, science, technology, computing, engineering and math, including endowed professorships and research scholarships. She also served on numerous influential advisory and leadership boards for the university and was given the Frank H.T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Award in 2013 in recognition of her long-term volunteer service to Cornell throughout the broad spectrum of alumni organizations. More on her philanthropic giving at Cornell.

Ann S Bowers
Ann S. Bowers

Bowers also generously gave her time to serve in numerous key leadership roles for universities and organizations throughout California and in other parts of the U.S. She served on the boards of San Francisco State University; Grinnell College (Iowa); the American Conservatory Theater (San Francisco); EdVoice, of Sacramento, California; the Exploratorium, of San Francisco; El Camino Hospital; Investment Company of America; CoGenerate (formerly encore.org), of San Francisco; and Technology Center of Silicon Valley, of Sunnyvale, California. She gave the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center the largest individual gift in its history in support of its CMS Two residency program, which was renamed the Bowers Program.

She also was a board member and past board chair of the Tech Interactive in San Jose, and an active member of 100Kin10, a network that sought to train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by 2021. As a former member of the board of the Silicon Valley Joint Venture Education Initiative, Bowers helped Silicon Valley schools redesign educational programming for the 21st century. She was named Philanthropist of the Year by the Golden Gate Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2005.

“We look at philanthropy the way VC’s look at their investment opportunities,” Bowers said. “We use the same criteria a VC would: leadership first, idea second, and a well-conceived plan to carry out the idea third.”

UC Noyce Initiative

Beginning in 2019, The Robert N. Noyce Trust and Bower's own separate property trust, began making donations to the University of California system to launch the UC Noyce Initiative to honor the legacies of Bowers and Noyce. The initiative brings together five UC campuses—Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, San Francisco and Santa Barbara—by supporting collaborative research projects focused on using digital innovation to advance the public good. 

One of the multi-campus research initiatives to come out of the UC Noyce Initiative funding is a brain imaging consortium named the Ann S. Bowers Women’s Brain Health Initiative. This project now includes researchers from Cornell, Stanford among others - all of whom are working on advancing the study of women's brain health through deeply collaborative science. They are integrating research activities across campuses and bringing together world-class expertise in neuroimaging, computer science/artificial intelligence and healthcare with the hope of expanding our knowledge of the female brain, especially as it relates to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the latter of which afflicted Bowers during her final years.

“I believe strongly that Ann Bowers would be proud of this work,” said Katrina Stevens, president and CEO of the Tech Interactive, which is a partner of the Bowers WBHI and UC Noyce Initiative. “She always believed that we should get great minds together to be able to change the world and I believe that this work is going to do exactly that, especially for women.”

Information from Cornell University helped contribute to this story.