College of Arts & Letters Graduate Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Randolph (Randy) Cowen, a graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Arts & Letters, College of Social Science, and Honors College, is a 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, which is among the highest awards the university bestows on its alumni.

Each year, the MSU Alumni Office recognizes Spartans who positively reflect and enhance the prestige of Michigan State University with its Alumni Grand Awards. The Distinguished Alumni Award is one of the Alumni Grand Awards and is presented to alumni who have differentiated themselves by obtaining the highest level of professional accomplishment in their field. 

Cowen is an entrepreneur and longtime supporter of MSU. He received his bachelor’s degree in History, with a minor in Mathematics, from MSU in 1974. During his 26-year career at Goldman Sachs, he served as Chief Information Officer from 2001-2007 and Co-Chief Administrative Officer from 2007-2008.

“As far as in my career, I think the most important thing was to take smart risks,” Cowen said. “I decided to take the risk…to join the small team that was going to chart the future and became one of the leaders of making that future happen.”

Cowen has shared his expertise by serving on a number of for-profit and nonprofit boards in both Michigan and New York City, including the Board of Directors of EMC Corporation until it was acquired by Dell for $67 billion. He also has been active on the boards of Pivotal Software, Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, the Child Mind Institute, Solace, and GTY Technology Holdings.

Man with gray hair and glasses with a medallion around his neck.
Randy Cowen with the Distinguished Alumni Award medallion he received at the Alumni Grand Awards Induction Ceremony at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.

Currently, Cowen is Chair of the MSU Research Foundation Board, where he has served since 2013. He demonstrates a continued commitment to MSU by investing in the Physics and Astronomy Department through endowments. The Jerry Cowen Endowed Chair in Experimental Physics honors the memory of Cowen’s father, Professor Jerry Cowen, who was a distinguished researcher in the MSU Physics and Astronomy Department for more than five decades.  

A natural-born leader himself, Randy Cowen has used his achievements to help rising leaders at MSU transform research in emerging industries. His guidance in entrepreneurship and corporate engagement, paired with his personal philanthropy, has made an invaluable impact on the MSU community.  

woman with glasses facing a man with her hand on the shoulder of the man, who has gray hair and is wearing glasses.
MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff congratulates Randy Cowen on receiving a 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award.

The Alumni Grand Awards are given to a select few each year who rise above the accomplishments of most. In many cases, their life’s work has influenced industry, innovation, the arts, science, research, etc., on a national or global level and they are making an impact in their professions, their communities, and for MSU. 

This year’s Alumni Grand Awards were presented on Nov. 3 during the Induction Ceremony and Gala held at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.

Group photo of 10 people all of whom have medallions around their neck.
Randy Cowen (back row far right) with the other 2023 Alumni Grand Award recipients at the Alumni Grand Award Induction Ceremony and Gala held at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.

(This story originally was published on the MSU Alumni website)