Alumni & Giving

Donor Stories

Sally Cowan - Field Trip SF
Sally Cowan on a field trip with her students in San Francisco

A Chance to Learn and Freedom to Teach

A Donor’s Story

By Sara "Sally" Wheeler Cowan

When I heard what happened to Brother Jon on Jolo, I was already back in San Francisco. It was 1977, and I had capped off a summer of teaching in the Philippines by accompanying him to that stunningly beautiful island that was also the site of violent conflict. I was planning to teach a unit on the Philippines and its people to my fifth grade class in California, which included many children of Filipino descent. 

It is only thanks to the University of Maryland that I became a teacher.

At my high school in a well-to-do suburb of Washington, D.C., no one thought I was “college material.” I had no money, no friends in school, no mentors. Classmates had begun shunning me when I was nine, after my father was arrested and imprisoned. After that, I retreated to books. I often read about strong women, like my mother, surviving and sometimes thriving in difficult times.

I had wanted to be a teacher since the summer before second grade. I taught little neighborhood kids math, using sticks and acorns. They say teachers are born, and perhaps there’s some truth to that.

Against long odds, in 1965, I entered the University of Maryland’s College of Education and graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in education and history, and a teaching certificate. I missed the graduation ceremony to catch a plane to California to begin a 40-year teaching career.

Without a full scholarship from Maryland, I would not have attended college. That is why I have set up a scholarship fund to benefit College of Education students who want to teach.

Read the full story here.

  1. Filipina
  2. Mangoes in the Philippines
  3. Sally Cowan - Camino 2012