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Dr. Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University, will be presented with the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at the graduation ceremonies for Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati on June 7.

Cowen will deliver the graduation address to the Class of 2009, at the Isaac M. Wise Temple.

Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, will make the presentation. Ellenson said Cowen “is an eloquent spokesman who has provided dynamic leadership to numerous corporations, civic and national counsels, and boards; he is a prolific author who represents the epitome of the academic ideal; and, with vision and energy, Dr. Cowen rescued Tulane University from the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.”

Cowen is Tulane University’s 14th president. He also holds joint appointments as the Seymour S. Goodman Memorial Professor of Business in Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and Professor of Economics in the School of Liberal Arts.

Cowen came to Tulane in 1998 from Case Western Reserve University where he was a member of the faculty for 23 years. He is the author of four books and over 100 academic and professional articles, essays, and reviews, and is the recipient of several national awards and honors.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded half of Tulane’s Uptown campus and all of its downtown Health Sciences Center, and dispersed its faculty and staff around the country for an entire semester. Under Cowen’s leadership the campus was repaired and 87 percent of its students returned for classes in January 2006.

On Dec. 8, 2005 the Board of Tulane approved Cowen’s Renewal Plan, a sweeping effort that strengthens and focuses the university’s academic mission while strategically addressing its current and future operations in the post-Katrina era. In response to Katrina, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin appointed Cowen to the city’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission and charged him with leading a committee to reform and rebuild the city’s failing public school system.

Having rescued his campus from disaster, Cowen visits Cincinnati at a time when there is a cloud over HUC’s future. The board of governors of HUC-JIR will meet next month to discuss various ways of dealing with the school’s financial problems, including whether to keep open just one of its three campuses in Los Angeles, New York and Cincinnati. Other alternatives include merging some academic programs while keeping more than one campus open.

In a letter to members of the college community, Ellenson said HUC faced a deficit this year of $3 million and was “in the most challenging financial position it has faced in its history — even more so than during the Depression,” because of declines in its endowment and in dues paid by Reform congregations across the country, among other funding problems.

(From staff and JTA reports)