Remembering Gayle Cowan OAM with profound gratitude

The flags at St Mark’s are flying at half mast this week to honour the life and mark the passing of Gayle Cowan OAM, a Governor of the College Foundation, whose generous financial support over 25 years helped hundreds of students from regional areas to be at St Mark’s.

Gayle Cowan was honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia in January 2023 “for service to the community of Mount Gambier”. Her community service reflected her commitment to education at all levels – kindergarten, and primary and secondary school, as well as at the university level – together with keen interest in art, film, bridge, and other community activities. Details of some of Gayle’s extensive community involvement and service may be found here.

At St Mark’s, we particularly honour with gratitude her service as Secretary and Trustee of the Cowan Grant trust. Created by Mrs Cowan’s parents-in-law in the early 1990s, from 1995 to 2020 the Cowan Grant trust awarded grants (or scholarships) to a very large number of university students at St Mark’s College, Adelaide, and other institutions such as the Roseworthy campus of the University of Adelaide.

As Secretary and Trustee, Gayle Cowan was integral to the running of this remarkably generous Cowan Grants program, working closely with her husband Mr Robert (Bob) Cowan.

Over that quarter-century, financial assistance totalling approximately $1 million was given to students to attend St Mark’s College alone. Hundreds of students were assisted through this. The focus was on supporting students from rural, regional, and remote areas of Australia (principally but not exclusively South Australia) to be able to afford to be at St Mark’s and so be able to undertake university study at one of the universities in Adelaide.

Many of these students would not have been able to come to St Mark’s or to study at university in Adelaide were it not for the Cowan Grants they received. Gayle Cowan was integral to creating life-changing opportunities for them.

Along with Bob Cowan, Gayle also took an active interest in the institutions to which students went and in the students themselves. She and Bob visited St Mark’s College on many occasions to meet with students, both through formal occasions such as scholarship presentations ceremonies and through social occasions such as meals together at the College.

The warm interest which Gayle and Bob Cowan showed in the students they were supporting was very much appreciated.

Gayle Cowan’s contribution, with Bob, to supporting university students in need, thus transforming their life chances, was truly exceptional, and we could not be more grateful.

Our deepest sympathy to Bob Cowan, their children Tiffanie, Leigh, and Jeremy, and their families.

Leigh and Jeremy Cowan were both resident students in St Mark’s, and Leigh was College Club President at St Mark’s in 1989.

Details of the Memorial Service for Gayle in Mount Gambier on Friday 24 March are here.