Dr. Louise S. Cowan has taught for over fifty years at the University of Dallas, where she was Chair of the English Department, Dean of Graduate Studies, University Professor, and the first occupant of the Louise Cowan Chair in Literature. With her husband Donald Cowan, President of the University 1962-1977, she worked steadily to build an internationally recognized university with a core curriculum based in the Western classics. She founded and directed its Institute of Philosophic Studies, a unique combination of doctoral programs in disciplines centered on the study of core texts.
A Founding Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, Dr. Cowan conceived of and initiated the Teachers Academy at the Dallas Institute in 1983, a program for Dallas public school teachers that has been designated by the National Endowment of the Humanities as a “model for the nation.” In July 2009 the Teachers Academy conducted its 26th consecutive Summer Institute for Teachers. For her work with this institute and her other contributions to the teaching of the classics, she received the Charles Frankel Prize in 1991 (now the National Humanities Award), the nation’s highest award for work in the humanities. She has since been given numerous awards and honors, among them the Intercollegiate Studies Gerhart Niemeyer Award; the Association of Core Texts and Courses first Humanities Award, and the Paideia Award by the CIRCE Society.
Dr. Cowan received her B.A. and M.A. from Texas Christian University and her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, where she wrote her dissertation on the group of Southern poets and critics who dominated the national literary scene for several decades. She is widely recognized for the book published from her dissertation, The Fugitive Group, still considered an indispensable document for understanding the Southern Renaissance that began in the 1920s. She is author also of The Southern Critics and editor of, among other volumes, Invitation to the Classics (with Os Guinness), Classic Texts and the Nature of Authority (with Donald Cowan), and general editor of The Terrain of Comedy, The Epic Cosmos, The Tragic Abyss, and an upcoming volume on lyric poetry. She is acclaimed as a teacher throughout the country and is noted for her teaching of Shakespearean tragedy and comedy and twentieth-century Southern literature, as well as the novels of Dostoevsky and Faulkner. She has continued her work in teaching and lecturing through her ninety-second year. In all, Dr. Cowan’s life and work in literature and teaching constitute an original, abiding contribution to American culture.