William Watlington Dow was born 15 February 1945 in Middletown, Ohio, and grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. He received a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Vanderbilt University, attended Vanderbilt Medical School, and was graduated in 1971. Dow interned at the Department of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Hospital in 1972, where he also served his residency from 1973-1975.
In 1969, Dow helped form the Student Health Coalition. Dow was a key figure in the establishment of other student health coalitions throughout the south. He acted as advisor to the Alabama Student Health Coalition, he co-founded the North Carolina Rural Student Health Coalition (both University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke chapters), and was involved in the creation of similar coalitions in Georgia and Texas. Dow also convened the first regional student health coalition conference in 1978.
Dow was an important figure in the organization of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Health Services, the center which ultimately absorbed the Student Health Coalition. Dow served on the university committee which recommended the establishment of the Center for Health Services, he served as the Center’s director from 1975 to 1976, and as Co-Director for Development in 1977.
In the mid-1970s, Dow began to focus his attention on nutrition, especially on the availability of healthy food as a principal determinant for a number of medical outcomes. This shift in focus was informed by observations made while working with the Student Health Coalition within rural Appalachian communities and experiences from his pediatric residency. In 1975, Dow worked with John Vlcek and Lindsay Jones to develop a new organization called the Agricultural Marketing Project with the goal of setting up food fairs, or farmers’ markets, throughout Tennessee. The project successfully established farmers’ markets in Memphis, Knoxville, Oak Ridge, and other locations in the state. Dow applied this new model to help set up a similar project (also called the Agricultural Marketing Project) at the University of Alabama; then in 1978, working with Laura Heise, he founded the North Carolina Agricultural Marketing Project with the same goal. The North Carolina Agricultural Marketing Project ultimately led to the formation of what is now the Carrboro (N.C.) Farmers’ Market. In 1978, Dow earned a fellowship with the Vanderbilt Medical School Department of Medical Administration, a fellowship in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
In 1979, Dow co-founded the Solar Greenhouse Employment Project with Paul Konove, which lasted until 1984. Around 1980, Dow decided to become a full-time farmer, and bought a 30-acre farm outside of Pittsboro, N.C., which he named Ayrshire Farm. Ayrshire became the first certified organic farm in North Carolina. Throughout Dow’s career, he was involved in a wide range of environmental and political issues: he helped organize the East Tennessee Research Corporation and Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), he served on the (N.C.) Governor’s Waste Management Task Force and the Chatham County Planning Board, and helped start the Committee for Solar and Appropriate Technology for Orange County, NC.
Dow died on 4 December 2012 in Pittsboro, N.C.
Graduated Vanderbilt with a degree in civil engineering in 1975. Randy first worked with SHC helping to construct the Petros Health Clinic in 1973. He served as SHC Co-Director 1973-1974 and a community worker in Jacksboro, TN the summer of… Continued
One of the many Philosophy majors among SHC’s early community organizers, Jack graduated Vanderbilt in 1971, and spent the following summer working on Mud Creek, KY. He later founded the Georgia Agricultural Marketing Project after briefly working with the Solar… Continued
I am a bit late in getting my bio in, best done in the earlier stages of pending dotage. I am originally from Laurinburg NC a small farming and, then, textile community in the eastern part of the state. I… Continued
Profile: [Written by Diane Lauver, February 2018] Growing up, I was close to my paternal grandparents; they lived in a pastoral valley looking at Appalachian hills in a northern state. With their 8th grade educations and practical wisdom, they taught… Continued
Profile: [Contributed by Bob Hartmann, February 2017] Rick Davidson has been badgering me for over a year to write a profile. Somehow he enlisted my wife, Mel Welsh, and now she is badgering me! As I read the profiles on… Continued
[Contributed by Pete Moss and Jennifer Crane, March 2016] Dr. Pete Moss was raised on his maternal grandparents’ farm in Marshall County, Tennessee, while his father fought in World War II. As the eldest of his siblings, he learned responsibility,… Continued
[Contributed by Virginia “Ginnie” Munford] My experience with the Student Health Coalition was working as the first “Staff Assistant” at the Center for Health Services, from approximately 1974 – 1976. The staff of the Center included Bill Dow as Director,… Continued
Contributed by Bill Corr, September 2015 I am forever indebted to the Vanderbilt Student Health Coalition because my involvement put me on a career path that has enriched my life and given me the opportunity to serve our nation’s health… Continued
[Contributed by Rebecca (Becca) Joffrion Ingle] I was born in Starkeville, MS in 1952, but grew up from age 5 in Huntsville, Ala. This small, sleepy Alabama town exploded in growth and diversity during those years with the coming of… Continued
[Contributed by John E. Davis, August 2015. Burlington, Vermont] I am the eldest son of a Southern couple who moved north for employment after World War II. Every June, my parents would “go home,” loading their three boys into a station wagon… Continued
[Contributed by John Emmeus Davis, 2015] Marie Cirillo was born in Brooklyn in 1929. Her father had emigrated from rural Italy. Her mother had grown up in a small Catholic community in central Kentucky. Every summer, her mother returned to… Continued
Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey reflect on Bill Dow’s character and personal philosophy about community organizing. They describe him as an other-oriented person driven by creative, actionable service and mutually respectful relationships best illustrated by his perception of and… Continued
Charles “Boomer” Winfrey and Maureen O’Connell consider what set the Student Health Coalition apart from other community development efforts in the Appalachian region of East Tennessee. Boomer focuses on the Coalition’s and SOCM’s value of community empowerment (by way of… Continued
Dal Macon shares how local communities perceived, received, and supported Student Health Coalition participants, as well as how their approach to relationship-building manifested. Link to full interview with Dal Macon. Continued
Dal Macon distinguishes the Student Health Coalition’s activism from other “radical” movements of the time. He expounds on the context of what it meant to be “radical”, how it was generally perceived, and why SHC participants didn’t identify as such… Continued
Dal Macon shares his first impressions of Bill Dow and what attracted him to the Student Health Coalition’s unique approach to community organizing. He frames the SHC and its work of rural healthcare delivery as a mission of listeners responding… Continued
Brought to us by Margaret Ecker and others involved in its 2013 production, this special collection of insights from several Student Health Coalition figureheads in the 1970s features Bill Dow, Bill Corr, Carolyn Burr, Dal Macon, and Marie Cirillo–among many… Continued
Bob Hartmann explains how his and many others’ formative experience in rural healthcare and community medicine with the Center for Health Services, Student Health Coalition, and Mountain People’s Health Councils—both as students and young professionals—left a lasting impact on their… Continued
[Contributed by Frank Pacosa, April 2017] Memories of Bill Dow and the Vanderbilt SHC Summer Health Fairs It was all about Bill and the world he opened to me. That gravely voice stilled me. And often in his mouth was… Continued
[Contributed by Frank Pacosa, March 2017] Heartfelt memories of my SHC days rumble through Bill was the seminal influence. Never met a man who could say more with so few words. His admonition to always question and look deeper for… Continued
Community leaders recognized early on the added value that expanded role nurses brought to the table. In this video clip, community leaders Marie Cirillo and Betty Anderson recollect their efforts to lobby for legal changes that would support expanded role nurses. Continued
On training nurses, reuniting with fellow Coalitioners, and being a non-conformist. Learn more about Pete Moss on his profile page. Continued
Several years before he died, Bill Dow agreed to participate in recorded conversations about his farming philosophies, with the idea that he would use the recordings to compose a book about sustainable agriculture. He died in 2012, before the project… Continued
On strip mining, community organization, and “[having] fun while trying to change the world.” Interview with Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey, recorded at a May 2013 reunion of the Student Health Coalition in Nashville, Tennessee. Continued
Video clip from Appalachian Genesis courtesy of Appalshop Film Archives (Whitesburg, KY). Continued
[Contributed John WIlliams] Bill had a friend named Fortenberry who was a staffer for the Mississippi State Senate in the 1970’s. In 1976 lignite coal (a low grade of coal) was discovered in Mississippi, so the state started considering the… Continued
On organic farming and the state’s resistance to nurturing broccoli. Continued
My name is Biff Hollingsworth and I am the Collecting and Outreach Archivist for the Southern Historical Collection at UNC Chapel Hill. My main responsibility at the Southern is to curate new collections and projects, which means that I work on… Continued
[This story was contributed by Richard Davidson, M.D.] After an initial scouting year in the summer of 1969, the Student Health Coalition began health fairs and community organizing in Appalachia in the summer of 1970. After several months of hard… Continued
Overview of work at Rural Advancement Fund; 70s at Oberlin College; overview of history and content of Agricultural Marketing Project in Tennessee; overview on farmers market organizing and environmental organizing in the 70s; background on Health fairs in Tennessee –… Continued
Committee records, annual reports, photographs, and other records of the Student Health Coalition and other projects of the Center for Health Services. Records of the Center for Health Services. Eskind Biomedical Library Special Collections, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN. Continued
Randy Hodges, a civil engineer educated at Vanderbilt University, served as a consultant on the Solar Greenhouse Employment Project (SGEP), a non-profit initiative which sought to address rising food and heating costs and unemployment in rural communities in the South… Continued
Files document Dow’s professional career and consist chiefly of research files, administrative files, grant and project proposals, correspondence, reports, clippings, and a few other writings created or collected by Dow. Major topics include community organizing, community-institutional relations, public health accessibility… Continued