Full Circle: Bowen Family Transforms Loss into Legacy

Full Circle: Bowen Family Transforms Loss into Legacy
From left: Nikki Morgan '16, Ana Bowen, Rosa Lardenoit, Kyle Mendoza '16

When Ana Bowen and Rosa Lardenoit presented a gift of $100,000 to Chapman University from the estate of their late brother Joaquin "Jay" Cuetara, the moment was bittersweet. The gift was to support the Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarship endowment in memory of Ana and Mark's son and Jay and Rosa's nephew, who died in a traffic accident during his freshman year at Chapman in 2003.

After Matthew's passing, Ana and her late husband Mark began brainstorming ways to honor Matthew's memory. Knowing that Matthew could never have attended Chapman without his Presidential Scholarship, Mark suggested creating a scholarship in his name. The family worked together to make Mark's idea of turning the tragic loss into an opportunity to do something life-changing for others into a reality. After Mark's passing, Jay led the charge by gathering together his family's gifts, which were matched by his company, IBM, to establish the Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarship endowment in 2004 to honor Matthew's legacy and keep his memory alive. The goal was simple: transform Matthew's death into a powerful opportunity to aid and inspire future Chapman students - students who could continue the path Matthew had begun.

"Family is everything. It's our Cuban ideals," Ana said. "We would all attend Matthew's varsity baseball and football games. We even went to the practices; he didn't mind."

It was this strong sense of family unity that inspired the Bowens' extended family to join together to establish and fund the Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarship endowment. Understanding the benefits of legacy planning, Jay encouraged his entire family to include Chapman in their estate plans to bolster the endowed scholarship. An exceptionally close brood, one-by-one, they each included Chapman in their will or living trust: Matthew's parents, Mark and Ana Bowen, along with his aunt and uncles, Kris and Rosa Lardenoit and Jay Cuetara. Their generosity will have a powerful impact on current and future Chapman students.

After a difficult journey with cancer, Jay Cuetara passed away in December 2013. It gave him great pride to know that current students at Chapman University were benefiting from the generosity of his family and so many others who knew and loved Matthew. In fact, the scholarship has been awarded 24 times since it was established in 2004. With the addition of Jay's estate gift, the endowment supporting the scholarship has more than doubled. Jay's philanthropic spirit and kind heart will long be remembered, both by his family and by the Chapman University community.


After handing the check to President Jim Doti, Ana Bowen and Rosa Lardenoit sat across the table from then-current students Kyle Mendoza and Nikki Morgan, two of the Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarship recipients. Coincidentally, both students are from Yorba Linda, where Matthew grew up and lived with his family.

Ana Bowen, center, spends a moment with Nikki Morgan '16 and Kyle Mendoza '16, recipients of Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarships. Bowen holds a photo of Matthew, her son, who died in a traffic accident in 2003, his freshman year at Chapman.

"You are going to graduate from this wonderful university," Ana proudly told the students. "It would have been great if Matthew had graduated."

During their meeting, Nikki and Kyle were asked what the scholarship means to them and how it is impacting their lives. Nikki shared that the scholarship support she is receiving through the endowed fund is helping make her Chapman experience possible, including the opportunity to study abroad in Spain.

"I wouldn't be here [without the Matthew Bowen Memorial Scholarship]," Kyle added. "My family's home was foreclosed upon the year I was looking into colleges. I didn't think college was a possibility for me. I could not have gone to Chapman without this scholarship."

Although Matthew's life and dream of joining his uncle Kris's law practice as an attorney were tragically cut short, Mark and Ana's vision, bolstered by their family's financial and emotional support, has transformed their loss into a legacy filled with promise for generations of Chapman students. Through their ongoing support and commitments for the future, Matthew's entire family has become a part of the Chapman Family.

"Never before in the history of Chapman University has an entire family come together with estate gifts to maximize support for a single endowed scholarship," stated President Emeritus James L. Doti. "This is a true testament of their strength as a family and it is recognition of Matthew's love for Chapman University. It's as if each of these students is now building upon Matthew's legacy. Learning about Matt and his incredible family will inspire their success."

Inspire Your Legacy

For information about creating your Chapman legacy, contact us.