Cowan Helps Veterans Purpose After Service
By Hope Lafreniere, Office of Communications and Marketing
Howard Cowan has been a part of the Lubbock community since 1978. As far as being a Texan, he says he got here as soon as he could. As an Air Force veteran who was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War, he is sympathetic to the plight of veterans returning home from foreign wars. His perspective led him to give a generous commitment of $50,000 to the School of Nursing Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) program.
“This program is helping veterans transition into a long-term career which goes on to help people, especially people with similar experiences as they have had,” Cowan said. “How do we deal with these issues that many veterans have when they come back? It is a challenge we, as Americans, must face. We must find a way to develop and utilize the skills these women and men learned while in the military. The VBSN program is an example of veterans utilizing the professional skills they obtained in military service to acquire a lifelong, fulfilling career.”
Cowan believes a career as a nurse practitioner is a fulfilling choice for those with military medical experience, and he is happy to support veterans. He and his wife Sue earlier funded an endowed nursing scholarship in memory of his late maternal grandparents, Dr. H.G. and Olive Parker. Parker served as a country doctor who made his rounds in a horse-drawn buggy in the early days of Oklahoma statehood. He delivered both Cowan and his mother in a small wheat growing community near Enid. He had few resources, but still managed to provide care for those in need. Cowan believes that much of the primary care his grandfather practiced will be delivered by nurse practitioners in the future.
“There is no ownership to what Sue and I are seeking to do for this program,” Cowan said. “The more financial support we give to these students, the more they can focus on their academics. When they finish at TTUHSC, they will know their military experience and the training at TTUHSC can change lives.”
School of Nursing VBSN Liaison Kyle Chapman, a former Marine, helps students recognize their full potential while they are earning their degree. During his service in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he witnessed the courage and commitment of the military medical teams in situations most cannot imagine. Chapman believes the Cowan's donation will help fill financial gaps which occur as the students complete the rigorous and accelerated academic program that will lead to their degrees, in turn helping them learn, grow and heal from their experience.
“It’s different for every student who joins our program,” Chapman said. “This program does a good job acknowledging the experience they had in the military. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve seen how corpsman saved lives in combat. We are taking these students from a structured environment, some may have ongoing issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. We help them find their purpose after the armed forces. One thing the military instills is that sense of service. By working toward their degree, they can use their sense of service to help people while keeping their mind occupied.”
Cowan works with several groups to improve health outcomes for veterans with PTSD. He is the president-elect of the National Association of Surety Bond Producers this year, which supports research focusing on veterans suffering from PTSD. The trade association is currently sponsoring research interested in developing coping skills for veterans without the use of prescription drug intervention. Cowan recalls many of his friends who came back from Vietnam feeling as though they fell through the cracks and hopes VBSN students will use their education to help others who may have suffered physical and psychological damage during enlistment.
“I had many friends who were drafted into the Vietnam War,” Cowan said. “I had so many relatives and friends who never recovered from what they experienced in combat; they suffered silently from what they had seen in Vietnam. The climate was not supportive of veterans when they returned home. The people who opposed the war took it out on those who returned from Vietnam. Even now, many of our current veterans still have tremendous difficulty in coping with what they had experienced in the Middle East. Many buried their feelings with drugs and alcohol, became alienated from friends and family, and received inadequate care from the Veterans (Affairs).”
The Cowan’s charitable gifts to the School of Nursing are not the first they have donated to the Texas Tech University System. Cowan and Sue gave Texas Tech University funds to endow the H.C. Lewis Endowed Chair for Construction Technology. Cowan also lectures periodically on Surety and Risk Management in the freshman orientation course offered by that department.