When Carol Cowan started at Middlesex Community in 1976, the school occupied two buildings at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford. “Look at us now,” Cowan said in June as she prepared to leave her job as president of one of the largest and most inclusive community colleges in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
At a joint board meeting of the MCC Board of Trustees and the MCC Foundation Cowan said that accepting her first job at Middlesex as a professor was “a decision I’ve never regretted.” People in attendance were sad to hear that Cowan was announcing her resignation, which will take place the upcoming academic year.
Cowan has served as dean of business and dean of administration and finance. Cowan received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Salem State College, a certificate of advanced graduate study from Boston State College, and a doctorate in higher education administration, from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
In addition to these achievements, Cowan received an honorary doctor of humane letters from the Suffolk University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and School of Management, in acknowledgment of her eminent career in public higher education and most recently received another honorary doctor of humane letters from Salem State College. Cowan is a member of the council’s Nominating and Board Development Committee and has been a member of the Girls Scouts board of directors since 2008. In September 1990, Cowan was named president of MCC.
“I’ve been here 38 years,” tells Cowan, the third president of the institution. At the MCC Board of Trusties meeting, Cowan said she felt she helped lead MCC from “its infancy to adulthood,” and that she also helped establish the college as a “flagship in the community college system.”
“We have strong campuses in our suburban (Bedford) and urban (Lowell) settings. Middlesex Community College has become a nationally recognized leader in higher education,” said Cowan.
She listed her accomplishments and announced to the Board, “We are beginning (a) study with the DCAM (Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance) for a new academic science building on the Bedford campus, with a major investment in biotechnology through the $3 million grant from the Mass Life Sciences consortium. Additionally, we are looking at another $10 million state investment for another new academic building in Lowell.
“I am proud to be president of this institution, proud to be your colleague, and proud of the milestones we have reached as a team here at Middlesex. I’m excited to see where the college goes next,” said Cowan.
In a statement regarding Cowan’s retirement, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas said:
“Twenty four years ago Carole broke barriers to become the first woman president of MCC, and only its third president. During my nine years at MCC, I was inspired by Carole’s visionary leadership and unwavering dedication to the students and community, as she overcame obstacles to propel the college forward to national recognition. Carole’s leadership helped to elevate the profile of MCC and community colleges in general, highlighting the important role they play in educating, training and preparing people of all ages and walks of life for success… Her years of service and her remarkable legacy of accomplishment will resonate across the region for many years to come.”
Likewise, via his Twitter account, Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn, who assisted Cowan’s Farewell ceremony on Nov. 10, said, “Congrats on your retirement after 24 years leading Middlesex CC, @CaroleCowan! @middlesex_cc.”
To find Cowan’s heir, the search committee started work throughout the summer and fall semesters. On Dec 11, MCC board of trustees selected James Mabry as the new president.
“I am confident I have helped set the stage for the next president to step in and grab the reins of very exciting projects that will usher our college’s growth into the next decade and beyond,” Cowan said.
Farewell President Cowan, you sure will be missed at MCC!