Dedicated. Inspirational. Student-oriented. These are just some of the words that describe Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs John Cowart. His commitment to Santa Fe College is unmatched in many areas, and he is genuinely well loved by coworkers and students alike.
After 22 years of service, John is leaving his position to serve full time at Abiding Faith Christian Church. He will be missed.
“I’m transferring into full-time ministry,” John said. “I was a founding member of Abiding Faith Christian Church and, after 37 years of growth, I have decided to become an official, and present, part of it.”
John began his career with Santa Fe College in 1990 as an Academic Advisor under Lynn Sullivan. He went on to serve as Coordinator for Retention and Tutoring in what is now the Office of Diversity. Later, he was the interim Coordinator of Student Activities and then Assistant to the Vice President of Student Development under Pat Grunder. Finally, he became the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs under Dr. Portia Taylor who recently retired.
“I met John 20 years ago at the downtown campus. I’ve got to say that it has been a pleasure working with him,” said Barbara Jessie in Student Affairs. “He is a very positive, student-oriented person. John is an inspiration. I admire and look up to his values as an educator.”
John is presently the overseer of grants in Student Affairs and as the current Ombudsperson he has thrived on helping students. His best experiences at SF have involved helping students overcome barriers.
“My favorite part of working at Santa Fe has, without doubt, been working to help students. I work with everything that students deal with, from helping to solve difficult problems and bringing them back into an educational environment, to encouraging them to restore greater values,” John said. “There are students who came to me with low grades and low self-esteem, or students who’ve been troubled about the direction they’re going in, and I have been able to work with thousands of those who are now professionally set in their careers.”
John is incredibly helpful to faculty and staff as well, and everyone around him is appreciative of his willingness to help.
“One time, I ran into a problem a student had that I wasn’t sure how to solve. It turns out that John was exactly the person to turn to when you couldn’t figure out how to solve a problem,” said Bill Stephenesen. “If he could solve it himself, he’d just handle it. He always knew the exact person to talk to in order to assist a student who needed help in some kind of way.”
John often maintains contact with students years after their time at SF and was introduced to President Bill Clinton through a student he met here at SF. One of John’s most special memories of a student occurred very recently, and he shared that story.
“On August 10, a student came by. I had been working with this student for two years. He came to me looking for direction, so I advised, counseled and encouraged him. On his last day at Santa Fe, this student left a note on my desk to thank me for what I had done. The note read, ‘You are a major part of my degree and success here at Santa Fe College. I don’t have a picture to leave you, so I’m going to leave you my diploma.’ This student actually left his diploma on my desk. The thought behind this is something that truly touched me and pushes me to move forward and continue helping others,” recalled John.
John will continue to help people by leading mission work in Haiti, Dominica and Liberia. When John is stateside he will serve as a community member to the My Brother’s Keeper Program at SF and will continue to assist the successful National Achievers Program on campus.
“I’d call Santa Fe College the best kept secret as far as education is concerned. Santa Fe is a dynamic and powerful institution that opens doors for students so that they can get their lives together and excel. When you look at what Santa Fe College has given to me, I couldn’t have done it alone. I’ve formed rich relationships with staff and faculty that I could never exchange.”
Turns out, the feeling is mutual.
“I was sad to find out that he was going to be leaving. He’s done tremendous work here at Santa Fe. I’m going to miss him,” Bill said.
“I hate that we’re losing John, but I know that he’s fulfilling his mission in life,” Barbara added. “We wish him the best.”
There will be a going-away reception for John at 2 p.m. Friday, August 31 in R-01. All are invited to attend and honor him.