Hardship inspires learning legacy

Bob and Gayle Cowan with Cowan Travelling Scholarship recipient Clare Dixon

Bob and Gayle Cowan with Cowan Travelling Scholarship recipient Clare Dixon

In the midst of the Great Depression in London, an eager academic, Bill Cowan, made a conscientious vow – that if good fortune and success should fall his way, he would endeavour to help students with their tertiary education to prevent them suffering hardships like his own.

Bill’s diligent and determined approach helped him win the position of librarian for the University of Adelaide’s Barr Smith Library. Bill gave 32 years of passionate, rigorous and enthusiastic service to the Library and with the support of his wife Marnie and family, his commitment continues today.

After Bill’s death, Marnie and his son Bob established the Cowan Grant in 1994 which funds fellowships and scholarships at three universities and two colleges, including the University of Adelaide. It’s a legacy that Bob and his wife Gayle continue to embrace.

“We certainly follow the enthusiasm of my late parents in the benefits of tertiary education – that’s the primary reason why we’re still so enthusiastic about it,” says Bob.

At the University of Adelaide, the Cowan Overseas Travelling Scholarship supports more than eight undergraduate students each year to undertake an exchange program overseas.

“It’s so rewarding and one of the nicest things that can happen is when we meet some of the students who we support. They explain how it takes the pressure off them.”

The scholarships are awarded based on financial need and academic merit, and particularly favour regional and rural students. Several Indigenous students have won a scholarship in the past.

“We’re very enthusiastic about giving students a learning experience overseas that challenges them and broadens their understanding if the world,” says Bob.

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