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Walter Cowan, first Loyola SMC visiting committee chair, dies at 98

April 23, 2010

Walter Cowan, a veteran New Orleans newspaperman who served as the first chair of the Loyola University New Orleans Department of Communications visiting committee, died earlier this month at the age of 98.

During Cowan’s long career in news, he rose from reporter to editor at the New Orleans newspapers which would later merge to form The Times-Picayune. He worked at the New Orleans States and the New Orleans Item, and he became managing editor and then editor of the New Orleans States-Item after the papers combined. He was also vice president of The Times-Picayune Publishing Company before he retired in 1979.

In 1982, Cowan and Larry Lorenz, Ph.D., the A. Louis Read Distinguished Professor of Mass Communication, then chair of the department of communications, recruited media luminaries to the first visiting committee for what is now the School of Mass Communication.

Cowan and Lorenz attracted A. Louis Read, former general manager of WDSU-TV for whom Lorenz’s professorship is named; Ken Gormin, president of Bauerlein Advertising; advertising executive Peter Mayer, Iris Kelso, political columnist for The Times-Picayune; Gary Hymel, former reporter for the States and then-vice president of Hill and Knowlton public relations company; and George Montgomery, head of Montgomery Stire Partners advertising agency.

According to Lorenz, Cowan guided the committee skillfully.

“Walter was a wonderful gentleman, and we became friends in the years he chaired the committee,” Lorenz said. “One of the side benefits of having him as chair was that he and the other members of his era would gather in my office before meetings and tell stories. He himself was a terrific story-teller. Over the years, they gave me a lively course in the history of New Orleans journalism.”

Among Cowan’s accomplishments was winning of support of the visiting committee to support a proposal to implement a mass communication graduate program.

Cowan was a former president of the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Association; a recipient of the Monte M. Lemann Award for contributions to the advancement of civil service; and a recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Press Club of New Orleans.

In retirement, he joined with other retired newspapermen to write three books, "New Orleans Yesterday and Today: A Guide to the City," "Louisiana Yesterday and Today: A Historical Guide to the State" and "Louisiana Governors: Rulers, Rascals, and Reformers."

Cowan’s survivors include a son, William Douglas Cowan, ’68, of Albuquerque, N.M., daughter-in-law, Nancy Mills Cowan of New Orleans, four grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. His son Walter "Wally" G. Cowan Jr., received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola in 1963 and a juris doctorate in 1966. He is deceased.

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