Dr. Jerry Dowling stands next to a portrait of founding Dean Dr. George Killinger, who hired him in 1972.
In the early days of the College of Criminal Justice, Dr. Jerry Dowling started “distance learning” -- driving his car to Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Beaumont and Corpus Christi to help working police officers get a college education.
“We were doing distance learning but we did it by jumping in a car and going there,” quipped Dr. Dowling. “We had a large number of working police officers at that time, and we would run classes in back to back shifts, every Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. That way, if they switched shifts, they could still finish the class.”
After more than four decades teaching at Sam Houston State University, Dr. Dowling will retire in May, leaving a legacy in policing and law enforcement, including textbooks, professional licensing and testing, and models for patrol allocations, as well as thousands of students who have excelled in the field.
Dr. Dowling with Dr. Killinger in 1977.Dr. Dowling joined the then Institute of Contemporary Corrections in 1972 after getting a law degree from The University of Tennessee and serving in the FBI in Dallas and Los Angeles. In Dallas, he was a special agent for general crime cases, most involving fugitives, and in Los Angeles, he was assigned to a unit dealing with domestic terrorism, including bombings and the Weatherman, a violent left wing organization that opposed the Vietnam War.
“I chased Bill Ayers (the Weatherman leader) all around, but I never caught him,” Dowling recalled.
When he and his wife decided to settle down and start a family, he looked for another less dangerous line of work. Through a friend from the FBI, he got a phone interview with Dr. George Killinger, the founding Director of the Institute, and was hired on the spot.
Dr. Dowling has been teaching at SHSU for 42 years.It was the 1970s and a new federal initiative, called the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP), provided grants to working officers to obtain a higher education. During the early days of criminal justice programs, Dr. Dowling taught undergraduate and graduate classes simultaneously in the field, even attracted police chiefs from Dallas and Port Arthur to his classes.
“It was a good example of how we were able to adapt the delivery of education to the needs of our clients,” Dr. Dowling said. “We were building relationships and our reputation in the field.”
Over the years, Dr. Dowling has continued to adapt his instruction, annually tweaking his lessons to meet the needs of the changing population. When he first started teaching, the profession was dominated by white males. Now many women and minorities have joined the field.
Dr. Dowling reflects on changes in criminal justice.“It took three or four years on campus before there were female students in my criminal justice classes,” Dr. Dowling said. “The really big change when I walk down the halls now is the number of female and minority students. It is a reflection of the broader acceptance of diversity.”
During his tenure at Sam Houston State University, Dr. Dowling was instrumental in licensing and promotional exams for police officers. Along with Dr. Larry Hoover, he wrote the first licensing exam for peace officers in Texas and Illinois and developed curricula for basic police training in Texas, Illinois, New York and Maine. He also is responsible for the training used for jailers at the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and for school resource officers in Kentucky. Finally, he worked at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas as an instructor, providing classes on legal liability and labor relations for professionals in the field.
Dr. Dowling was also an avid writer, penning numerous books and dozens of articles in his specialties of criminal law, pre-trial criminal procedures, and criminal investigation. He recently completed the 2nd Edition of Texas Criminal Law: Principles and Practices, due out later this year
Dowling was among five SHSU faculty to hit the 40 year milestone.Over the years, he molded many leaders in the criminal justice field and remains friends with them to this day. Take Dr. Gerry Ramker, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In the early days of computers, Ramker worked for Dr. Dowling, hauling boxes of punch cards to the mainframe across campus. Now Dr. Ramker is in charge of nationwide criminal justice databases for the Department of Justice.
Another student he fondly remembers is Larry Zacharias, the former Richardson Police Chief who serves as Chief of Police for the University of Texas at Dallas. During his college days, Zacharias was “long haired and bearded” and he him hired to paint his house. Now, he leads police agencies.
Dr. Dowling reflects on the faculty and students he has known over the years.“You remember the people – the people you worked with and the relationships you built,” said Dr. Dowling. “You remember the students – the really good ones and the really bad ones. Some have become friends and you keep up with them. I was always pleased about that. You like to think you made a difference and helped them in the professional life and in the personal life to be a good human being.”
Dr. Dowling said he is leaving the College in good hands, with the up-and-coming crop of new professors who have joined the program.
“When I look around the College at the newer facility, they have different interests, but they share the same passions for the student," Dr. Dowling said. "I feel good about these folks and I can walk out the door without any guilt.”
In his retirement, Dr. Dowling plans to continue teaching online courses.
“I think of retirement as working for yourself and what you want to do,” said Dr. Dowling.