Golden Jubilee speaker helping rural students

Friday, 15 October 2010

Fifty years after his own graduation, retired forester Bob Cowan was back at the University of Adelaide today (Friday 15 October) to tell his fellow 1960 graduates about the satisfaction his family has found in helping young rural and regional people to go to university.

Since its establishment in 1993, his family's philanthropic trust, Cowan Grant, has helped about 700 rural and regional university students, the majority at University of Adelaide, in meeting university costs - for a total of over $1.7 million.

Mr Cowan, chair of the Mt Gambier-based trust, was the guest speaker at today's University of Adelaide 2010 Golden Jubilee celebrations for graduates from 1960.

In Bonython Hall, 115 graduates from as far as the United States and the United Kingdom re-enacted their graduation ceremony. They received a commemorative certificate from new University of Adelaide Chancellor the Hon. Robert Hill and heard addresses from the Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha and Mr Cowan before catching up with old friends at the reunion lunch.

Mr Cowan graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Forestry) from the University of Adelaide before completing a Diploma in Forestry at the then Australian Forestry School in Canberra and postgraduate studies in forestry at the University of Oxford and embarking on his 32-year career in the forest and timber industries of the South-East. His career included responsibility for the State's forest operations and the commercial sawmills at Mt Gambier, Mt Burr and Nangwarry.

Mr Cowan was also a United Nations consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, a Visiting Fellow at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, inaugural Executive Chairman of the South-East Economic Development Board and a member of the SE Catchment Water Management Board.

The Cowan family's connection to the University of Adelaide started with Bob's father Bill Cowan who was the Barr Smith Librarian from 1936 to 1964 and his mother Marnie, who was chairwoman of the University's Wives Club. Bob's son Leigh graduated in Engineering in 1990.

Bill, Marnie and their three children wanted to give something back and, at the same time, help young people from the country to get the same start in life that the Cowan family had received.

"All three generations benefited from scholarships and grants to university," Mr Cowan said. "We are country people and we are well aware of the difficulties faced by rural families and how that can be an impediment to young people going to university.

"We've found that just a small amount of help financially can be so important. Not only do the students receive financial support but this also gives them an immeasurable boost of confidence. It can show the students that someone has faith in them, and this is a very powerful motivator."

More information on the Cowan Grant Trust can be found at:


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