Walter S. McGowan, Jr.
October 25, 1999
Walter S. McGowan Jr. of Unionville, former director of the Office of Public Information, died of cancer on Monday, Oct.18, at the John Dempsey Hospital.
McGowan, a UConn alumnus, worked at the University for 23 years, serving as the University's spokesman for a number of years.
A veteran journalist, he had also worked at radio stations in New Britain, Hartford and Meriden, and at the New Britain Herald. He covered a number of major events for United Press International, including events at the Capitol and the 1955 floods.
Known for his sense of humor - his insistence that everyone "have a nice weekend," even on Monday morning, and his Friday evening farewell, "see you tomorrow" - McGowan saw the University through a number of crises, including the blizzard of 1978, when, making his way from Storrs to his home in Unionville, he got as far as the UConn Health Center in Farmington and spent the night there. After his retirement, he began doing woodworking in earnest, wrote a novel, The Patriot and Tim Perkins, and did freelance writing for the UConn Alumni Association.
"Walt loved UConn deeply. He was a person with a zest for life who was always willing to take the extra step to help a reporter, a colleague or the University," said Karen A. Grava, manager of media communications, who worked with McGowan for more than 10 years.
Cynthia Adams, professor and associate dean of allied health, said she recalled McGowan's help in promoting her book on eating disorders in the late 1970s and early 1980s. "I used to jokingly call him my agent, and he would joke back; he did a lot to promote the book and to call attention to the problem of eating disorders."
Born in Waterbury, McGowan grew up in Watertown and lived in the Unionville section of Farmington for 42 years. He served as an auxiliary police officer and crisis support team member for the Town of Farmington, and had served on a number of town committees. As a UConn student, he began classes at the Waterbury regional campus. In Storrs he began his journalism career working at the student radio station, WHUS. A Navy veteran, he graduated from UConn in 1951.
McGowan is survived by his wife, Dawn, also a UConn alum, three daughters, a son, eight grandchildren and other relatives.
Memorial contributions may be made to the University of Connecticut Foundation, Walter S. McGowan Jr. Lectureship, P.O. Box 552, Storrs, CT 06268. The lectureship was established in the journalism department in 1989, when McGowan retired.
Karen A. Grava