Bob Bowman, former police officer and director of operations at the Leeds Rhinos Foundation spoke to JLife about his amazing achievements and plans after his recent UKIB Breakfast meeting appearance.
Bob Bowman, who was one of the latest guest speakers at the UK Israel Business meeting, sat down with JLife to talk in depth about his career, which included 29 years serving the Leeds community as a police officer and some of his achievements to date.
Bob is a regular guest speaker at events, and it is easy to see why. A friendly giant with an affable nature and warm Leeds brogue, Bob tells his life story with ease and care, welcoming listeners to enjoy a tale that goes “from council estate to Buckingham Palace.”
Born in 1966 and growing up on the Cranmer Bank estate in Moortown until the age of 21, Bob underlines that his background is what gives him the impetus to speak frankly about the need for opportunities for all: “There were a lot of people on my estate who weren’t afforded many opportunities. I was very lucky. I had parents who didn’t conform to the usual lifestyle of certain families on council estates in the 1960s and 70s. But it was tough too, because when I made that decision to not follow the same paths as a lot of my peers and enter into potential anti-social behaviour and criminality, it made me into a bit of a scapegoat during my teenage years.”
“I am now in this privileged position to head up the Leeds Rhinos Foundation and it is all about giving people opportunities for them to be the best and raise their aspiration level as high as they can to exploit their talents and abilities.”
A lifelong love of rugby and Leeds rugby club, as it was known then, resulted in Bob playing union rules during his time at Allerton High School, asserting “Rugby Union is a lot more enjoyable and interesting to play, than possibly to watch” and eventually fulfilled his dream of travelling around America before settling down with new wife Stephanie and qualifying as a police officer in 1988 – just in time to see Leeds beat Castleford in the Yorkshire County Cup that same year.
When Bob was offered a community ‘beat’ by a senior officer, he jumped at the chance to make a potential difference to an area on a more personal level, and described how his time overseeing an area which had “Spencer Place smack right down the middle of the beat, with Chapeltown Road to the west and Roundhay Road to the east” had a myriad of challenges, but nevertheless Bob recalls it as the “best four years of my police service”. His career in service was rewarded in 2014 when he received the highly prestigious Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) in the HRH Queen’s birthday honours list, and travelled to the palace with his wife and three daughters to receive the honour.
The current director of communications also considers his close connection to the Leeds Jewish community as a particular asset during his time on the ‘beat’, and was honoured to be invited to the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board’s (LJWB) 140th birthday dinner recently: “140 years of activity in Leeds, what the board has offered and how it transitioned at key times is something to admire. I think it was quoted that the board has created a mini welfare state for the Jewish community, and long may it continue.”
He also emphasised how the Leeds Rhinos Foundation – the official charity of Leeds Rhinos that delivers sporting projects in the heart of the community to make a lasting, positive impact on individuals’ lives – seeks to work closely with LJWB to deliver a range of projects, especially by visiting Jewish schools in the area, alongside the North Leeds schools it already works with: “We’re keen to work in partnership with the board and help deliver their services. We will be visiting the board to discuss a potential partnership and look at integrating the quality of services that we have developed and work with the board on reaching out to the local Jewish community. Our work in primary schools is key to a lot of our success so we would love to explore that.”
Bob’s commitment to charity work and the foundation has also resulted in volunteering himself for a mammoth multi-day event: 15 marathons in 15 days in association with the youth charity, the Brathay Trust. The first 10 marathons circuited Lake Windermere, while the final five saw Bob “run home” from the Lake District to Headingley Carnegie Stadium. Only 94 people have managed this challenge since 2007, and Bob became the 95th to highlight the foundation’s pledge to improve the lives of children, young people and families in Leeds.
A cordial and inspiring figure, Bob in many ways represents exactly what the foundation hopes to achieve. His belief that everyone has the capacity to do extraordinary things to the benefit of themselves and others has permeated throughout everything that Bob has done throughout his life and career and he is a true servant to a club and a city he loves.
To make a donation to the Leeds Rhinos Foundation and the Brathay Trust, visit Bob’s sponsorship page at Mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/bobbowman15epicdays.