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Denmark Tech celebrates SC’s first HBCU electrical lineworker program 

Denmark Technical College, in partnership with Santee Cooper, named their new electrical lineworker range after James W. Bowden, Sr. at a June 1 ceremony on campus.  

Bowden, a two-time Denmark Tech alumnus and the first African-American vice president at Duke Energy, was joined by DTC administration, faculty, staff and stakeholders, the Bowden family, local and state leaders including Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter and Bamberg County Administrator Joey Preston as well as executives from Santee-Cooper, Edisto Electric Cooperative and Duke Energy.  

The ceremony celebrated the recent kickoff of Denmark Tech’s new electrical lineworker program, the first of its kind at a South Carolina HBCU. The program was conceptualized by Bowden and DTC administration and was championed by Cobb-Hunter.  

“We are elated to bring this program to the people of our service area.” said Willie L. Todd Jr., President and CEO of Denmark Technical College. “There are so many worthwhile technical programs we plan to develop at Denmark Tech, but we really wanted to dive into the lineworker program because we see this as an amazing opportunity to increase diversity and gender equality in the power industry and provide the residents of rural South Carolina with access to education that can have a swift and dramatic effect on their financial stability.”    

“Lineworkers provide a critical service to the communities in which we live. Having a diverse workforce will show a commitment to being an equal opportunity employer and it will give a complete perspective of customer needs and expectations,” added Bowden.     

The addition of the lineworker program comes on the heels of a nationwide movement to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Progressive industry leaders across the Carolinas were quick to prioritize the initiative.  

“A diverse workforce makes us a stronger company and helps us better meet the energy needs of communities across South Carolina,” said Mike Callahan, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president. “We applaud the work of former Duke Energy employee, James Bowden, to inspire and develop the next generation of diverse lineworkers in partnership with Denmark Technical College.” 

The range, which was sponsored by Santee Cooper, is already in use by the first cohort of lineworker students.  

“This partnership helps create more opportunities for diversity in the power business,” said Mike Poston, chief customer officer at Santee Cooper. “We hope it provides future opportunities for generations to come for the people in this community.”  

The planning is already underway for subsequent cohorts for the 2022-2023 academic year.  

“This is an excellent time for anyone interested in the lineworker program, or any of the dozens of other programs we offer, to further their education because we have a wealth of tuition and fee relief opportunities that can bring a student’s contribution down to zero dollars out of pocket,” said Todd.  

Bowden said of the naming honors, “It was a total surprise to me because my commitment was based only on the fact that this class and program will change the course of our students’ lives for generations.  However I must admit that when I found out that the lineworker range was being named after me, I had a feeling of joy, satisfaction and pride, knowing that the students, parents, alumni and the Denmark community will know that I played a vital part in making this program a reality for our children.”   

Bowden graduated from Denmark Tech in 1972 in the electronic technology program and again in 1993 in industrial technology, two degrees that served him well throughout his 42-year career with Duke Energy. Bowden started as an operating service technician in Greenville in 1972 and worked his way up the ladder, becoming Duke Energy’s first African-American vice president in 2005 until his retirement in 2010. 

Bowden currently serves as a Denmark Technical College Area Commissioner and as the president of the Denmark Technical College National Alumni Association.  

“I’m thrilled that we chose to name the range after a trailblazer for equality in the power industry and a champion of Denmark Technical College,” said Todd. “Our ‘Putting the TECH Back in Denmark Tech’ campaign is proving that a technical education can lead to a lucrative and rewarding career. Bowden is a shining example of that notion.”  

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