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Richard J. McCowan, 86, SUNY Buffalo State professor emeritus and renowned educational researcher

Oct. 10, 1931 – Jan. 3, 2018

Richard J. McCowan, a renowned educational researcher and professor emeritus at SUNY Buffalo State, died Wednesday in his Grand Island home after a short illness. He was 86.

Born in New York City, he was a 1949 graduate of Chaminade High School in Mineola. He graduated magna cum laude from St. John’s University in 1953 and earned a master’s degree in English literature from Niagara University the following year. He received his doctorate in guidance and psychology from St. John’s in 1965.

Following active duty in the Army as a personnel sergeant, stationed in Japan, he served in the Army Reserve, attaining the rank of first lieutenant.

Certified as a chief school officer, school psychologist and in secondary education, he was an assistant dean of students at Niagara University from 1955 to 1957, then went to Long Island, where he was a junior high school English teacher and counselor in Baldwin and a counselor a Farmingdale Senior High School.

He returned to Western New York in 1964 as director of guidance for Eden Central Schools. He also served as the district’s coordinator of federal funds.

From 1966 to 1968, he was chief of the Bureau of School and Cultural Research for the state Education Department and administered the Experimental and Innovative Programs, which supported work in public schools and universities in the state.

He joined the Buffalo State faculty in 1968 as director of the Campus Laboratory School and Child Study Center, along with several federal and state supported programs. From 1969 to 1971, he also directed the college’s Research and Development Complex.

He helped found and chaired the master’s degree program in educational computing and, from 1980 to 1985, was associate director for evaluation for the Center for Applied Urban Research and Development.

After he retired from teaching in 1989, he joined the State University of New York Research Foundation as director of the Research and Evaluation Group for the Center for Development of Human Services. He was promoted to senior director for administration in research in 2009 and retired in 2014.



He served four terms on the Grand Island Board of Education, including six years as president and two years as vice president.

He served on the Development Committee for the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County from 1999 to 2002.

He was a Republican committeeman in Buffalo’s Delaware District from 1974 to 1984, and was chairman of Selective Service Board No. 5 for Tonawanda and Grand Island from 1984 to 1988.

The Southern Christian Leadership Council presented him with its Community Service Award in 1992.

He and the former Mary Elisabeth Coyle were married in 1957. She died in 1998. His death came on her birthday.

Survivors include three daughters, Molly McCowan Zogaria, Maura McCowan Rustowicz and Sheila McCowan Donovan; a sister, Veronica McCowan Kinney; and nine grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Saturday in St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 2080 Baseline Road, Grand Island.

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