Around 100 students, faculty, administrators and staff gathered for the unveiling of the new Cowan-Blakley Memorial Library on Aug. 18.
Drs. Donald Cowan and Louise Cowan were both early visionaries of the Core curriculum and facilitated the rise of the University of Dallas to the national academic stage.
Dean of University Libraries and Research Cherie Hohertz made it very clear that the Cowans believed the library was invaluable to the success of the university.
“They understood the library as the heart of any institution,” Hohertz said.
President Thomas Keefe also affirmed the role of U.S. Sen. William Blakley and Donald and Louise Cowan in developing a lasting, monolithic vision.
“UD was founded … by a unique combination of visionary educators and visionary civic leaders,” Keefe said. “These leaders had great hopes and expectations. They laid the foundation on which we stand today.”
Blakley facilitated the largest gift in the history of UD by enabling the Blakley-Braniff Foundation’s $7,500,000 grant to the university in 1966.
Keefe emphasized that the addition of the Cowan name to the library in no way lessens the memory of Blakley.
“We shall never forget and we will be ever grateful for the work Senator Blakley did on behalf of the university,” Keefe said.
After Blakley had done his work, Donald and Louise Cowan came to UD to present their vision to the small, young, private Catholic university.
At the time, UD was one school in a sea filled with many other small, private Catholic universities.
The Cowans’ dream made sure that UD was able to stand out from the crowd.
“UD as we know it would have disappeared without the powerful vision of Louise and Donald Cowan,” Keefe said. “The Cowans … conceived of an active era that rejected the conventional wisdom, and they swam upstream against the tide.”
Even President George H. W. Bush recognized the work of Louise Cowan in 1991 when she received the Charles Frankel Prize, which recognizes an outstanding commitment to bettering the nation’s understanding of the humanities.
“Louise Cowan believes that appreciation of literature is essential in the formation of civic and business leaders,” Bush said during the award presentation ceremony. “Over the years, she’s impressed thousands of students with the power of literature to form the conscience and consciousness of a people. She ranks among the great builders of education in Texas.”
Today Louise Cowan’s effect on UD is most visible through the Literary Tradition sequence coupled with Core classes in philosophy and theology.
The Core of today is the curriculum that gave the major colleges of the past their reputation.
UD has retained that tradition because of the Cowans.
Dr. Robert Scott Dupree gave a unique insight into the lives of the Cowans as their student, colleague and friend.
As a student, he appreciated their unwillingness to modernize the academic sanctity of the western tradition.
As a colleague, Dupree appreciated the Cowans’ willingness to utilize advances in technology.
And as a friend, he learned to improve his creative prowess.
Dr. Bainard Cowan, son of Donald and Louise Cowan, spoke about his parents’ pioneering spirit.
“Their lifetime work was to establish a unique character at the University of Dallas and pioneer a future great civilization that has not forgotten the tradition of the west or the tradition of humanity,” Bainard Cowan said.
Dr. Bainard Cowan expressed pleasure at the library now bearing the Cowan name.
“The library is the heart of the university,” Bainard Cowan said. “In a sense, Don and Louise were a library themselves … Libraries are often extolled as places that are wonderful to get lost in. Libraries are often the decisive crossroads.”
Dr. Bainard Cowan recalled the excitement his parents shared at the prospect of learning from a new idea, a quality he says the UD community shares.
“With them, scholarship through new discovery was a driving, professional activity that retained its aura of fresh novelty,” Bainard Cowan said.
The Cowan-Blakley Memorial Library currently has a first floor display summarizing the lives and works of Donald and Louise Cowan.