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Shorter Athletics takes the Ice Bucket Challenge for one of its own

Matt Green
Guest Writer

If you’ve kept up with any social media lately, you’ve noticed that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been sweeping the nation.

Through it all – friends challenging friends, employees challenging bosses, athletes challenging their coaches – the ALS Association has raised over $110 million from Ice Bucket Challenge donations in support of the organization’s fight against the disease.


Many student-athletes and coaches at Shorter University have participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge along with the rest of the country, but little did anyone within the Hawk family realize that the cause would hit so close to home.

On Monday afternoon, over 500 Shorter student-athletes and their coaches gathered at historic Barron Stadium to support Dr. Richard Cowan, Shorter’s Director of Compliance, who was recently diagnosed with the disease.

Overall, Shorter Athletics raised $1,100 in honor of Dr. Cowan, a native Roman who has served Shorter the community for nearly 50 years.

“Dr. Cowan is a special man,” said Shorter head softball coach Al Thomas, who was instrumental in putting the event together. “No one epitomizes what it means to be a servant leader more than Dr. Cowan and we wanted to do something that showed him just how much we love him. The support from our coaches and student-athletes was incredible and we hope that Dr. Cowan was able to see just how much he means to us.”

Lowe’s Home Improvement of Rome donated 350 buckets, Dalton Ice supplied several pallets of ice and Rome-Floyd Parks & Recreation Authority provided the access to Barron Stadium and the water as members of all 21 intercollegiate athletic programs at Shorter doused their teammates and coaches with ice water as part of the challenge.

Lowe’s of Rome also donated a grill that was raffled off as part of the event.

Dr. Richard Cowan reads out the winning raffle number.

ALS, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord as well as the motor neurons that connect the brain to muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons eventually leads to their death and when the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed (ALS Association).

Over three million people have donated to the ALS Association through the Ice Bucket Challenge, and the money raised by Shorter Athletics on Monday afternoon will go to help Dr. Cowan with medical expenses associated with treatment.

Coach and athlete join hands in support of Dr. Cowan.

Dr. Cowan, who graduated magna cum laude and first in his graduating class from Shorter in 1964, returned to the Hill in 1969 after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee and has held a multitude of positions during his 46 years of service.

A former Teacher of the Year, Dr. Cowan served as Chair of the Mathematics department in addition to a 30-year tenure as Shorter’s Faculty Athletic Representative and NAIA Eligibility Chair. He was Shorter’s Director of Athletics from 1979-1992 – earning Athletic Director of the Year in 1992 – and moved into compliance full time in 2011 when Shorter began the transition to NCAA Division II.

Dr. Cowan, whose wife Debbie was also in attendance, was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from his colleagues and the student-athletes he serves.

Athletes dumped with ice water.
Athletes dumped with ice water.

“Debbie and I would like to thank everyone for their generous contributions for ALS,” Dr. Cowan said. “We were deeply touched by the number of Shorter student-athletes, coaches and staff in attendance at this event. The gift of support and love will strengthen and encourage us as we walk through this unknown journey together. The memories of this day will always remind us that we are truly blessed.”

Shorter Athletics will hold another fundraiser for Dr. Cowan during its next home football game on Thursday, October 2 against Mississippi College. Video of Monday’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge can be found on the Shorter Athletics Facebook page.


Pictures by Jacob Bean, Web Editor and Photographer