A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, in the Interfaith Chapel for Emory Cowen, who died Thursday, Nov. 30. Cowen, an eminent professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University credited with revolutionizing mental health care with the introduction of prevention programs, was 74 years old. Those planning to attend are asked to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
In 1957, Cowen and his colleagues initiated the Primary Mental Health Project (PMHP). The experimental program identified moderately troubled primary school children and, in a one-to-one setting, helped them learn to resolve conflicts and cope better. The goal was to prevent more serious problems in later years by providing early intervention.
Praised for its focus on building wellness rather than treating emotional damage after the fact, PMHP has been adopted in more than 1,000 school districts around the world. More than a quarter of a million children have participated in the program.
According to Professor Dante Cicchetti, a colleague of Cowen's and the director of Mt. Hope Family Center, which is affiliated with the University's Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, "Emory Cowen is one of the major figures in the history of clinical psychology. His insistence on rigorous evaluations of the efficacy of prevention programs presaged current beliefs in the criticality of documenting the effectiveness of interventions. Without Dr. Cowen's insightful contributions, the quality of theory, research, and treatment in mental health prevention would be significantly poorer and far less respected. Emory also mentored more than 80 doctoral students, many of whom have gone on to make major advances in the areas of prevention and community mental health. He was a giant in the field and his legacy will live on."
Cowen's work earned him numerous prestigious awards, including the American Psychological Association's (APA) Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest. The award citation noted that Cowen was "instrumental in the creation of a field for an entire generation of psychologists. His work has changed public schools throughout the United States. His ideas, research, model programs, program evaluations, and workshops have inspired others to generate new programs that provide affordable human services to thousands of children who are otherwise unlikely to receive help."
Among the many awards Cowen also received were the APA's Seymour B. Sarason Award for Community Research and Action, the Creative Community Program Award from the New York State Division of Youth, and the Outstanding Research Contribution Award from the New York State Psychological Association.
In 1977, Cowen was appointed to the Task Panel on Primary Prevention on the President's Commission on Mental Health. He was the author or co-author of more than 300 articles and research papers as well as numerous books. He also served as the associate or advisory editor of several journals, including the American Journal of Community Psychology, the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and the Journal of Primary Prevention. Locally, he was honored with the John Romano Award from the Mental Health Association of Rochester/Monroe County and the Community Volunteer Service Award from COMPEER.
Cowen earned his bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College in 1944. After service in the Navy, he returned to graduate school and received his doctorate from Syracuse University in 1950. He joined the faculty at the University of Rochester that same year.
Over his 50-year career Cowen taught courses in clinical psychology and in research and community mental health. He was the director of the Center for Community Study, established to expand programs for the detection and prevention of young children's adjustment problems, since its inception in 1969. He also served as director of the undergraduate counseling service and as assistant and associate chairman of the psychology department. In 1992, he received the University of Rochester Graduate Teaching Award.
Cowen is survived by his wife, Renee; his sons, Richard Cowen and his wife Katie of Bedford, Mass., Peter Cowen and his wife Rebecca of Rochester, and Andrew Cowen of Rochester; his daughter, Lisa Cowen of Tenafly, N.J.; and four grandchildren, Laura, Jimmy, Timmy, and Annie.
Donations can be sent to the Mt. Hope Family Center, 187 Edinburgh St., Rochester, NY 14608, Attn.: Dante Cicchetti, for a memorial at the Mt. Hope Family Center to be established in Cowen's name.