Dr. Cowen is President Emeritus and Distinguished University Chair of Tulane University and the author of Winnebagos on Wednesdays: How Visionary Leadership Can Transform Higher Education and The Inevitable City: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban America. He served as Tulane's 14th president from July 1998 through June 2014 and has been named one of the top college presidents in the nation by Time. Dr. Cowen served as interim president of Case Western Reserve University in the 2020-21 academic year, where he led the university through a time of transition and great uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Cowen is the recipient of several national awards, including the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award and the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence in Higher Education, as well as honorary degrees from some of the nation's top institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, Brown University, Yeshiva University, the University of Connecticut, and Case Western Reserve University.
He was a leader in New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina, which inflicted more than $650 million in damages to Tulane alone, and has been widely praised for helping to transform New Orleans' K-12 public schools and health care system after the storm. For these and other efforts, Dr. Cowen was awarded the Times-Picayune's Loving Cup, New Orleans CityBusiness named him one of the 30 “Driving Forces” in New Orleans in the last 30 years and he was named New Orleanian of the Year by Gambit.
He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, which advised President Barack Obama on the needs of disconnected youth.
Dr. Cowen received his bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut and his master's and doctorate in business administration from The George Washington University.