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Middlesex Community College
n Friday, May 14, 1976, Georgetown High School's
Carole Cowan completed and signed an application
for a full-time position as Secretarial Studies faculty at
Middlesex Community College, one of the newest in the
state's community college system, and mailed it off to the
Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges.
"After several years of successful teaching and administration
experience on the secondary level," Cowan wrote, "I would
like to pursue a career in post-secondary education." Finished
Cowan, in her application: "It is my hope that my candidacy
for this position will be given serious consideration."
And so it was, just a few weeks later, that Cowan was
summoned to interview for the faculty position on the
campus of Middlesex Community College, which at the
time, was housed in two buildings on the grounds of the
Veterans Administration Hospital.
"I remember driving onto the grounds, the trees were in
full blossom, and I thought, what a lovely and big campus,"
Cowan recalled. "And then I found out the college was only
sharing two of the buildings on the property, in what looked
like retrofitted classrooms."
Cowan interviewed with Middlesex administrators, and
was surprised when she was told she was interviewing
for a position not as a professor, but as an entry-level
instructor. Later that day, in a follow-up telephone call,
came the financial offer: $9,500.
Cowan turned the offer down. A job at Middlesex Community
College, apparently, was not meant to be.
Cowan held the hard line, then received a follow-up phone
call from the college with a new offer, at $11,500, as a faculty
member. Believing that the college was making a good-faith
effort to recruit her, Cowan agreed to take the job. "I figured
I would take it, but I had no intentions to make a career of it,"
she recalled recently.
Obviously, Cowan was able to "make a career of it," as Cowan
is preparing to step down after serving nearly four decades
at the college, including nearly 25 years of those spent as the
college's third president, one who has helped put the college
on the state, national, and global maps.
In June, Cowan announced her retirement from helming the
college, and has been able to reflect of late on the legacy
that she will leave behind as she prepares to move on.
Among the pinnacles that Cowan hopes she will be
remembered for are helping the college expand its global
education footprint, for its forays into the business workforce,
for helping to establish permanent campuses in both suburban
Bedford and urban downtown Lowell, for the preservation of
historic properties, and primarily, for its dedication to student
At the point of retrospection, Cowan finds it ironic that so
many people take much of the college's success for granted,
because for many, its' current state is all they know.
But Cowan is fast to remind people that the road travelled
was not always a smooth one, and that virtually all of the
successes that the college has enjoyed did not come without
a lot of hard work and dedicated staff and faculty.