President Cowen: New Orleanian for life

May 31, 2013 5:10 PM

Carol J. Schlueter

“This has been a very emotional day,” said Tulane University President Scott Cowen as he began a press briefing in Gibson Hall on Friday (May 31) to discuss his decision to retire from the presidency on July 1, 2014.

Tulane President Scott Cowen

Looking to the future, President Scott Cowen said he and his wife, Marjorie, "plan to make New Orleans for the long term one of the key locations where we spend our life.” (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

The 14th Tulane president, he came to New Orleans in 1998 and has no intention of leaving his adopted hometown or the university he resurrected after the 2005 storm.

“Given the fact that all of us have been through such horrific events together like Hurricane Katrina, we’re more like a family than an institution. There’s a bond that’s not the usual relationship between a president and a university.”

Once he retires as president, Cowen, who will be 67 in July, will take a sabbatical, but “I’m not retiring from Tulane University; I’ll be back where my career started as a professor in the classroom and in the community working with students to become engaged citizens and leaders.”

One reason for his decision was the years of work ahead on a “very ambitious capital campaign” of more than $1 billion, linked to a new vision and strategy that will take five to 10 years to complete.

“I think that the university deserves to have leadership who is prepared to stay through that time period and see the campaign to its conclusion,” he said. The choice of his successor is the responsibility of the Board of Tulane.

Scoffing at a reporter’s question of his being a “lame duck,” Cowen said he plans to work harder than ever in the next 13 months. Two of the big issues that will occupy his time are developing future partnerships for the Tulane School of Medicine, as the two new major hospital complexes take shape in the city, and evaluating changes that are happening in higher education and their likely impact on Tulane.

His post-retirement plans are taking shape as well. He is finishing a nonfiction book for a general audience about urban revitalization and leadership using the narrative of the city’s Katrina experience. It will be published late next spring.

Academically, Cowen is interested in writing another book and studying digital trends in higher education with the hope of developing a massive online open course (MOOC) that would be affiliated with Tulane, perhaps on the topic of civic engagement in a democratic society.

“I’m quite excited about what the future holds,” he said.


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