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The stories of his life: Dr. Paul Gowens retires from Texas State after 38 years

Dr. Paul Gowens
As he retires, Dr. Paul Gowens leaves a legacy at the McCoy College of Business Administration and as the university's first NCAA faculty representative.

The stories of his life

by Mark Wangrin

Dr. Paul Gowens retires from Texas State after 38 years

Dr. Paul Gowens sits in his easy chair in the spacious living room of his home in far South Austin, telling stories. Self-effacing and easygoing, the 75-year-old economics professor and former dean of the College of Business Administration had claimed earlier that he didn’t think his story was very interesting. He’s spent the last two hours proving himself wrong.

There are stories about his parents, Ray and Inez Gowens, who were chagrined that their local school board in Arkansas named a 22-year-old former local basketball star to the superintendent’s job. They realized, Gowens says, "If our boys were going to have a chance, we have to get out of here." They moved their four sons to the Texas Coast.

There are tales about how hard work pays off, such as one about how Ron and Joe Fuedo, the Corpus Christi grocery magnates, rewarded Gowens’ hard work by paying for his freshman year of education at Del Mar College.

There is one about how a high school age Gowens lobbied the athletic director at Corpus Christi Flour Bluff ISD to let him start a cross country team, and how that team of non-runners ended up winning a state championship.

"He’s a great storyteller," says Tracy Shoemake, Texas State associate athletic director. "It’s fun to listen and learn and soak it all in."

There are other stories, too, about hard work and serendipity; his "hillbilly" accent; his two high school teachers who fought a fatal gun duel over who won the Civil War; and his skill as a typist ("100 words a minute," he says proudly). There are stories of his family: how when he returned as coach and teacher at Flour Bluff High School, his future wife Pat’s ability to step in as a basketball scorekeeper helped convince him she was a keeper; of his sons Ryan and Geoff and their families; and of what he and Pat plan to do in retirement.

"I hope I didn’t ramble on too much," he finally says, modest to the core.

Texas State honored Gowens, already the namesake of an endowed scholarship in the McCoy College of Business Administration, by naming a facility adjacent to Bobcat Stadium the Paul and Pat Gowens Family Pavilion.

As he tells those stories, he’s surrounded by photos of his wife, kids, grandkids, and other family members. There is a neat stack of magazines — Sports Illustrated and The Economist — on the coffee table.

"That’s an odd pairing," he concedes, "but appropriate."

Those two passions defined his career. Gowens earned an Honorable Mention All-State as a senior point guard in high school, and had a brief stint as a savvy, but not particularly physically gifted, college basketball player.

In high school he also was drawn to math and his college advisor at Baylor, where he earned baccalaureate and master’s degrees, suggested an economics major. "I asked, ‘What is economics?’ " Gowens recalls. "It’s about money,’ the advisor said. So I said, ‘That’s good enough for me.’ "

He got his Ph.D. at the University of Mississippi and came to Texas State as an economics professor, becoming chair of the Department of Finance and Economics (1980-84), and later dean of the College of Business Administration (1984-99).

His coaching background, love of sports, encyclopedic memory, and innate ability to defuse tense situations and put people at ease made him the obvious choice to become the university’s first National Collegiate Athletic Association Faculty Representative in 1999.

Gowens has seen Texas State change names and ambitions and move from small college status in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to NCAA Division I. He’s interviewed prospective coaches and helped the athletic department negotiate the rapidly changing world of revenue, expenses, rule changes, and increasing emphasis on academics.

His retirement will give him more time with family. There are two more grandchildren due this summer. He will be reading more John Grisham novels, and there is a train trip across Canada to plan, along with other globetrotting with Pat.

"I haven’t not had a job since I was 14 years old," he muses.

Texas State honored Gowens, already the namesake of an endowed scholarship in the McCoy College of Business Administration, by naming a facility adjacent to Bobcat Stadium the Paul and Pat Gowens Family Pavilion.

While Gowens takes on retirement, the Texas State faculty will miss the man Dr. Denise Smart, who followed him as dean of the McCoy College of Business, says "epitomizes a servant leader." In 2011, Gowens won the McCoy College Advisory Board Teaching Excellence Award, given to the professor who undergraduate business school students said had the most significant effect on their educational experience.

"Students knew that he cared about how much they learned and many said he was the best professor they had had at Texas State," Smart adds. "They also mentioned that he had lots of energy — he’s known to fill up multiple whiteboards during a class period — a real passion for teaching, was very smart, and a great mentor and motivator."

Those students could probably tell some stories, too.

 

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