background image
Celebrating the Legacy of President Carole A. Cowan
In her interviews with the college's search committee,
members wrote notes about Cowan such as "good evidence
of visibility and leadership in professional organizations."
"Good budgeting ability. Evidence of ability to plan, for
example, building plans."
On Monday, September 17, 1990, the Middlesex Community
College Board of Trustees voted, and named Carole Cowan the
college's third president.
"Excited and enthusiastic would be the only way to describe
how I felt," Cowan said. "I had advanced through the ranks as
a faculty member all the way to president, and this was going
to be my chance to leave my mark."
And she already had her exit planned. If all went according to
script, Cowan would retire from Middlesex in the year 2000.
Once again, Middlesex and life - had other plans for her.
Six weeks into her presidency, Cowan received word that
funding for the college's Bedford expansion was in jeopardy.
Cowan and Trustees Chairman Jim Henderson had to ramp
up their Master Plan agenda and begin working the political
circles at the Massachusetts State House to ensure that the
funding stay in place.
With the help of officials such as former Massachusetts
Governor Mike Dukakis, former Lowell Senator Paul Sheehy,
and Lowell's then-current Senator, Nancy Achin-Sullivan,
Cowan waged a successful war to save the Middlesex
"I saw the 1990s as literally, the building years for the college.
We had to establish strong presences in both of our locations,
and with the solid foundation of our strong faculty, we owed it
to our students to make that dream a reality," Cowan said.
Much of what occurred in the years to follow was well-
documented in the local media: The modular construction
of the Bedford campus on 200+ rural acreage. The creation
the college's health and science laboratories on Middle
Street. The acquisition and renovation of the historic John
Nesmith House on Andover Street, another nod to Cowan's
real estate developer background.
Heading into the new millennium, Cowan knew there
was still growth to be orchestrated, so her planned 2000
retirement was derailed. Instead, Cowan continued to focus
on further expansion, acquiring the historic Meetinghouse on
Concord Road in Billerica, the college's suburban counterpart
to the Nesmith House, and eventually, the acquisition of the
abandoned Federal Building, once home to the city of Lowell's
United States Post Office in Kearney Square.
"Looking back, that's what I think will be my legacy here,"
Cowan said recently during an interview at her Bedford office.
"The build-out of this college, new opportunities for growth,
permanent campuses in two locations, those are all pieces of
what is at the core of Middlesex's development."
Three of the four men who served as Chairs of the Middlesex
Board of Trustees while Cowan was President had lots to say
about her leadership. The fourth, Tom O'Mahony, passed
away a few years back. Each of the Trustee chairs had high
praise for their partnerships with Cowan.
Bill Chemelli, who served on the Search Committee that
screened Cowan and the Trustees Board that eventually
voted her in as President, said Cowan "epitomizes Middlesex
Community College. Her vision, her philosophy, her strength
and her entire life was dedicated to MCC, and there will be
never be another like her. I'm proud to have served with her
during her tenure."
Jim Henderson, who was Trustees chair when Cowan was
elected President, and has since served as chairman of the
college Foundation, said Cowan "has devoted her entire
career to helping students achieve their potential. She has
never focused on what is good for Carole, but what has