James Evans Stowers Jr. passed away on March 17, 2014 at his home in Kansas City. He was born on Jan. 10, 1924 in Kansas City, Mo, the son of Dr. James and Laura Stowers Sr. A life-long Missouri resident, Stowers spent his formative years immersed in the Midwestern values and culture that would later serve him well in his various professional and philanthropic pursuits. He attended Kemper Military School in Boonville, Mo. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he joined the Army Air Corps where he became a fighter pilot. Upon his return to civilian life in 1945, he enlisted in the Air Force Reserves and served as a captain until resigning his commission in 1957.
Given his family’s background in medicine, Stowers initially considered a career as a doctor. But, after completing three years of course work, Stowers put his medical career on hold and set his sights on the business world. He had a short stint selling mutual funds for Kansas-based Waddell & Reed and then branched out on his own by founding a term-life insurance firm and a mutual fund broker dealer J.E. Stowers & Company. In 1958, Stowers established the money management firm Twentieth Century (later to become American Century Investments).
In reflecting on the origins and success of his company, Stowers once wrote, “It was my belief that if we helped make people successful, they would in turn make us successful.”
In the early 1970s, recognizing that computers could help streamline his stock analysis process, Stowers wrote his own proprietary computer program which is an integral part of the investment process that continues to guide a number of the firm’s growth-oriented investment strategies today. In early 1981, Stowers’ photo appeared on the cover of MONEY Magazine, accompanied by a feature story about the success of his funds over the previous five-year period.
Just as Stowers was beginning to enjoy the fruits of his many years of hard work, his family was confronted with the first in a series of battles with cancer. Jim was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 1986 and his wife, Virginia, had surgery for breast cancer in 1993.
Motivated by their own experience with the disease and a desire to give something back to the community that nurtured American Century Investments into a successful enterprise, Jim and Virginia Stowers founded the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in 1994. The Institute seeks more effective means of preventing, treating and curing disease.
In describing his reason for starting the Institute, Stowers said, “My wife and I wanted to give back something more valuable than money to the millions of people who made our success possible and we think that through science is the best way we can do it.”
He continued his crusade to help others improve their financial positions. He shared his investing insights and tips for financial self-sufficiency in the well-received book: “Yes, You Can…Achieve Financial Independence.” This book, and others by Stowers and co-author Jack Jonathan, inspired the creation of the “Yes, You Can” financial education program, which is designed to help parents and educators influence the behaviors of children and young adults so they can establish a path toward financial independence.
Stowers was chosen to be a torch bearer for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, another achievement in the extraordinary life of an ordinary man. Broadcast on the NBC Nightly News, the NBC reporter captured the essence of Stowers best when he described him as a man who’s given a “gold-medal performance in the generosity competition.”
Stowers was named Ernst & Young’s 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year in the Financial Services Category. In his acceptance speech for the prestigious award, Stowers said, “With both American Century and the Institute, the goal was never about self-enrichment. Rather, the larger goal has been to improve the lives of others, either by helping them achieve financial independence or by conducting medical research into the causes and potential cures for devastating gene-based diseases.”
Stowers was named the Expect Miracles Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2010. In recognition of Stowers’ long-standing personal leadership in cancer advocacy, the Foundation decided that this award would carry his name in perpetuity.
Later in 2010, the Stowerses joined other philanthropists in signing the “Giving Pledge.” The brainchild of billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, the pledge called on signatories to give away more than 50 percent of their wealth to charity during their life or at death. Through their generous gifts of cash and stock to the Stowers Institute, they had already given away the majority of their wealth.
In 2011, Forbes Magazine named the Stowerses to its list of the “Biggest Givers” – those who have donated at least $1 billion to charities or foundations. Ranked 9th on the list, the Stowerses were praised by Forbes for their generosity with the magazine noting that as a percentage of their total net worth, they had pledged the most.
On the occasion of American Century Investments’ 50th anniversary, Stowers marked the company milestone by expressing “When I look ahead, I feel enormous optimism and hope – for the investors we’re helping through American Century Investments – and for the help and hope we want to provide to humanity through medical research and discovery,” said Stowers. “Never have I been so confident that, truly, the best is yet to be.”
He was preceded in death by his oldest daughter Pamela. He is survived by his wonderful wife of 60 years, Virginia Glascock Stowers, and their children Kathleen Potter, her husband Jim from Denver and their children Lauren, Ryan (and his wife Kara) and Alex. James Stowers III, his wife Michele and their children Layne and James IV, Linda Stowers and her son Alex. He is also survived by his brother Richard W. Stowers Sr. and his wife Dorothy from Pampa, TX and their three children Susie, Richard Jr and Frank. The family thanks the numerous, invaluable and loving caregivers as well as the dear Dr. Jim Maliszewski his family physician.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations be made to the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.