Distinguished Alumnus Honorees

Posted: May 10, 2017



2017 Distinguished Alumnus Honorees


We are proud to announce our 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipients, John Cowan and Mike Martin, both from the Class of 1991.   This year’s honorees are men of exemplary stature, and heroic in their duty to our country.  Rarely do you have two Navy SEAL’s from the same high school, let alone the same graduating class, so the presentation at the Senior-Alumni Luncheon was extra special.  Cowan and Martin shared the important values it takes to become a SEAL and what it means to earn their trident every day.

John’s award was presented by his former Cross Country/ Track Coach, Bob Stark ’64. Mike’s award was presented by former Swimming Coach, George O’Brien ’64.  Both shared their admiration and gratitude for the honorees, along with memories from their days at Brother Rice.


John Cowan ‘91 was an all-state Track and Cross Country athlete during his four years at Brother Rice.  Cowan claims he had numerous “favorite” classes and teachers, but names like Stark, McDunn, Jones, Hoch, O’Brien, Richards and MacIntyre immediately come to mind.  Some of his most memorable courses were taught by catholic clergy who specifically helped reinforce the spiritual aspect of the school’s mission and culture for him.

John claims that “Brother Rice helped me learn how to learn.  More accurately, it helped me learn how I learn.”  He has often found that people have become more focused on the organization rather than the mission.  He went on to say that “there is a particularly strong tendency for this to happen when an organization experiences great success.  Brother Rice has been incredibly successful in its mission to produce young men who are exceptional academically, athletically, and spiritually.  My hope is the focus continues to be on the quantity and quality of the product.”

After graduation, Cowan enrolled at the University of Notre Dame where he continued to compete for the Fightin’ Irish in Track & Field and Cross-Country.  Majoring in Psychology and Pre-Med, he graduated in 1995 and was commissioned by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda.  He immediately joined the SEAL Teams and worked within the U.S. Special Operations Community where he has been ever since, mostly in a joint capacity.  Effectively, this means that despite Cowan’s Naval affiliation, he has worked for more Generals than Admirals.

Currently, John works at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict and, in June, will become the Director for Counter Terrorism.  He’s happily married to his wife, Kirstie, and claims that his most satisfying life accomplishment is becoming a proud father to his daughter, Marcella Rae Cowan.


Mike Martin ‘91 received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy under the nomination of US Congressman William Broomfield of Michigan’s 19th district.  In 1996, Mike graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with Merit, and was one of 16 candidates selected from Annapolis for SEAL training.  Upon commissioning as an Ensign in the United States Navy, he reported for SEAL training in Coronado, California where he finished in the top of his training class.  Mike’s career in the Navy included assignments at SEAL Team ONE, SEAL Team SEVEN, and SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE. Mike completed several leadership combat deployments to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. After the attacks on 9/11, he deployed to Afghanistan as a SEAL assault commander in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), to the Philippines as a lead advisor to the Filipino SEALs, and twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and an assistant task unit commander and as a task unit commander commanding a team in Fallujah. Some of Mike’s numerous awards include Bronze Star and Navy Commendation Medal both with Combat Valor.

Mike departed the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander after 10 years of service, and moved to New York City to begin his career as a Convertible Bond Trader at Merrill Lynch.  Within four years, he was promoted to Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch where he was recognized as one of the top performers within capital markets.  Michael co-founded and led the Metro NY Bank of America Veterans group, helped initiate and organize the Veterans on Wall Street (VOWS) consortium of five of the word largest banks and broker dealers, serves as the Vice Chairman on the Board of Directors for the Navy SEAL Foundation.

In 2012, Michael accepted a job offer with UBS O’Connor, a multi-billion hedge fund, and moved his family to Chicago.  Mike is currently an executive director and portfolio manager at O’Connor.  He is married to the former Leslie Jackson from Long Beach, California and they have five children. They have a daughter, Sailor (6), and three sons, Jackson (5), Charles (4), and Bodey (2), and a daughter Quinn (1).


Congratulations John and Mike, and thank you for your service.