Karen Martin, Associate Editor
December 24, 2010
It's a long way from Forbush to Boston.
But for William Maurice Cowan, or "Mo" as friends and family call him, it's just the latest stop on a journey with plenty of impressive stops.
"I'm so proud of him," Cynthia Cowan, his mother said. "He was such an inquisitive child always asking why and how. He read and watched educational material and took in everything he could learn.
Growing up in Yadkin County, Cowan graduated from Forbush High School in 1987, went to college first at Duke University and then Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, Mass., and then he landed at the governors office in Massachusetts.
Last week Cowan was named as Chief of Staff to Gov. Deval Patrick. Cowan began working with the governor 's office 13 months prior.
"He and his two sisters, Felicia and Valerie, all have successful careers and strive towards making things better for others," she said. "I'm very proud of my children. Mo studied hard and worked his way through school and college and has had a very successful career. This appointment is a real accomplishment, but he works hard and has made his own way."
Cowan began his law career in litigation in Boston after law school. He then moved to another firm, Mintz Levin, where last year he began working with Gov. Patrick as general counsel.
"I have a very blessed life," Cowan said. "I have a beautiful wife, Stacy, who I met in law school and married. We have two wonderful children, Miles and Grant, six and two.
My mother has been the heart and soul of our family. Our father passed away when I was 16, my oldest sister 17, and our younger sister just 10. There were three of us kids in the house and my mother worked as a seamstress to support us. She never denied us the things we needed. She believed in a good education and encouraged us.
"I am very grateful for the education I received from my wonderful teachers first at Courtney Elementary, East Bend, and then Forbush," Cowan said. "If it wasn't for the teachers I had in Yadkin County I wouldn't be where I am today," he said. "My first teachers at Courtney worked to teach us to strive for excellence and they took the time to help each student individually. Children don't always learn at the same rate and the educators in Yadkin County gave each child individual attention to help them accomplish their best.
"Our teachers reinforced the lessons we learned at home," he said. "My mother taught through example with Christian values. Sometimes she taught through love, sometimes through discipline. The lessons she taught us are the ones I try to live by today and raise my own children by."
Cowan said he is a true believer in education and the caring teachers he had in Yadkin County schools provided him with an excellent education.
"What the teachers of Yadkin County taught me opened doors and my mind to what education could provide you," Cowan said. "It was what they demanded and expected of us to learn. When I got to Duke I realized that there were kids who had more resources available to them than we had had in Yadkin County at the time, but I felt I was prepared by my teachers to compete with the other students.
"Never let it be said that the teachers in Yadkin County didn't care or didn't put in the effort to help us become all we good be," he said. "At an early age my teachers at Courtney considered me academically gifted and as such I was provided with challenges to further my education. One of my teachers at East Bend, Julia Gagliardi, still checks in on me and she and her husband Tony have become lifelong friends.
"One of the most important jobs there is is teaching and the least rewarded," Cowan said.
As Chief of Staff to Gov. Patrick, Cowan's responsibilities will include being responsible for the management of the governor's office and the several dozen employees. He will also work with the eight-member cabinet, oversee the budgeting process for the state as well as many other duties.
"I look at it as if it were a big company I would be considered the chief operating officer," Cowan said. "It's a big job, but I feel prepared.
"I cannot speak enough about the power of education I received at Courtney Elementary, East Bend and Forbush High School. I say with the utmost sincerity that without the time and energy the teachers of Yadkin County put into me I don't think this would have happened. You need someone to guide and push and my mother did at home, and still does. I still look to her when there are big decisions to be made in my life for her guidance. Those teachers in Yadkin did the same. They gave me guidance, support and encouragement to reach for a goal.
"There is no pot of gold guarantee that a degree will give you," he said. "But, the journey through grade school, high school and beyond will always place you in the best possible position when an opportunity comes available. If you're prepared, it's a much easier road."
Cowan expressed that there was nothing special about him saying he just had a desire and curiosity to better himself.
"I am a proud son of Yadkin County and a simple country lawyer," Cowan said. "Even though I have lived in Massachusetts for 20 years, in my heart I will always call Yadkin County home. There are special people in the county, in my house and my family."