Dr. Louise Cowan, R.I.P.

Cowan photo courtesy Dallas Institute
Cowan photo courtesy Dallas Institute

The announcement was made today by the Dallas Institute:

To the Dallas Institute family,

With great sadness but with hearts filled with gratitude for the work that she leaves in our charge, we want to inform our Dallas Institute community of the passing of Dr. Louise S. Cowan, at 2:27 a.m., Monday, November 16, 2015, at the age of 98. A renowned teacher of literature and poetry, she was a Founding Fellow of the Dallas Institute.

After a weeks-long struggle with her failing systems, she “died softly” according to her family who surrounded her — son, Dr. Bainard Cowan; his wife Christine; and their eldest daughter, Claire.

With her husband, Dr. Donald Cowan, who passed away in 2002, Dr. Louise embraced a vision of hope for the human enterprise and a commitment to making that hope real in the individual lives. People of deep faith, the Cowans believed in the transforming efficacy of education as the highest calling and gave their extraordinary lives to inspiring and deepening the hearts and minds of everyone in the work.

We ourselves were both transformed, awakened to our callings and to the purpose of our lives by our blessed relationship with Dr. Louise. She was our teacher, as she was for many, at both the University of Dallas and the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.

The Dallas Institute bears the indelible mark of Dr. Louise’s and Dr. Donald’s vision and grace, and the work of the Dallas Institute’s Louise and Donald Cowan Center for Education is on that threshold of bringing their distinctive vision of liberal education for all to our public schools, a focus of abiding love and concern for them both in their work at the Dallas Institute.


Larry Allums, executive director, the Dallas Institute

Claudia Allums, director, the Louise and Donald Cowan Center for Education

We published a profile of Cowan in our May 1979 issue. It was written by Jo Brans and begins: “Whenever I hear Louise Cowan talk I want to be Louise Cowan.” The formatting of that story is a bit janky, but you should fight through that and take a minute to read it when you can. It will give you a sense of what kind of woman she was.


  • It’s hard to put into words how much Louise Cowan meant to so many of us. But then, that’s what she tried to teach us to do – to learn how to put these things into words.