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The James P. Cowen
Memorial Fund

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Dr. James P. Cowen

Dr. James P. Cowen was a true friend of Montessori Community School. Jim, a professor of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and his wife, Beverly Quon, had two sons who attended MCS, Nathan, MCS ’95, and John Lucas. Jim could always be counted on to help when help was needed. He served on our Board of Trustees, built furniture for our classrooms, installed new playground equipment, and participated in numerous work parties.

After their children went on to other schools, Jim’s confidence and belief in Montessori education and our faculty inspired him to invite two of our elementary teachers to join the Teacher at Sea program in 2002 and 2006. Jerry Mueller and Lisa Nakata were able to board the ALVIN submersible and descend to depths of over 2,000 meters to study hydrothermal vents and the 

creatures that exist nearby. The teachers enthusiastically brought their experiences aboard the ALVIN back to their eager students, and the elementary curriculum has incorporated deep sea ocean study ever since. In fact, one student two years ago said that she would like to grow up to study hydrothermal vents, herself! The "Ocean Voyages" mural (pictured above) was inspired in part by the deep sea voyages of ALVIN.


When Jim passed away on July 26, 2013, the MCS community was deeply saddened by the loss. It was with great surprise that we learned that Jim’s estate bequeathed a generous gift to MCS to be used for tuition assistance for families with demonstrated need.  Since there was no timeline attached to this bequest, we carefully safeguarded this gift until it could be used in the manner it was intended. Additional endowment gifts were added along with other monies approved by the board, and gifts made in honor of Patsy Tom were given, under her direction, to this fund. It is with joy that we announce the opening of the Children’s Education Endowment Fund with a starting balance of $100,000.00, in which the corpus of Jim’s gift will remain intact and continue to create additional funds to be used for tuition assistance.

Jim’s time on the board was completed, and the classroom furniture and playground equipment he built are due for replacement. But Jim’s impact on our students’ curriculum, and on the diversity of our student body through tuition assistance, will live on for years to come.

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Jim Cowen and MCS teacher Lisa Nakata prepare for Lisa's descent in ALVIN.


MCS teacher Jerry Mueller demonstrates the interior dimensions of the 3-person control sphere inside a full-scale replica of ALVIN

For more information about establishing your own named fund, please contact our Development office:, 808-522-0245.