Many of us grew up having a grandma around – making cookies together, playing games and creating countless memories. In fact, some may have even wished they could take their grandma to college with them. One recent UCO grad did just that.
When Jordan Cowan was two years old, he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This genetic condition progressively affects the muscles and limits mobility. By the age of 14, Cowan lost the ability to walk, which required him to use a wheelchair full time.
Despite Cowan’s physical limitations, he continued to pursue his educational goals. Cowan always envisioned himself becoming an engineer like his father. After graduating from Edmond Santa Fe High School in 2015, he enrolled at Oklahoma State University – Oklahoma City (OSU – OKC) and began studying engineering technology.
“Jordan has never let his physical limitations hold him back. His entire life he has had to deal with them, but he never let that steal his joy,” said Beverly Cowan, Jordan’s mother.
Before starting his first semester at OSU – OKC, he received a grant from the Department of Rehabilitation Services to assist with college expenses, including funds for someone to help him at school. The family decided his grandma, Wilma Hamilton, would be the perfect assistant. Hamilton, a recent retiree, wanted to do something significant in retirement.
As a grandmother to seven, Hamilton has always set out on a mission to support her grandchildren, and this seemed like the ideal opportunity. It wasn’t long before Cowan and Hamilton were navigating campus and college together.
Hamilton transported Cowan to and from campus, attended his classes and assisted him with taking notes. He has always felt that he can lean on Hamilton not just as his grandmother or assistant, but as a close friend and confidant.
As Cowan got further into his studies, he knew he wanted more out of his college experience. He struggled with some physical limitations that were affecting his original plan to be an engineer.
“I realized engineering was not something I was going to be able to do since I was losing the ability to use my hands to design and draw on the computer,” Cowan said.
“I talked to [my parents] about what my future could look like as I learned to deal with the challenges I was going to face. After many conversations, we realized I had a very good brain for business.
In 2016, Hamilton took Cowan to UCO for a campus tour. He enjoyed the campus atmosphere and decided to transfer to UCO.
Over the years, Cowan and Hamilton have experienced many highs and lows and have gained numerous memories while in college together. A now laughable memory is when they got stuck on the wheelchair lift in the music building.
“Jordan was taking an elective class in that building, and we had to use the wheelchair lift to get to his class. The cable to the lift malfunctioned after we were about a third of the way up,” Hamilton said.
“We were stuck! Lots of people came to our rescue, but no one was able to find a solution. The Edmond Fire Department came to rescue us. We didn’t make it to class that day, but everyone’s response was so great; we knew we were in good hands at UCO.”
While Cowan had to finish his college career virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is now a proud graduate of UCO. As he transitions to the next chapter of his post-college life, he’s considering a career in either insurance or real estate.
When asked what advice he’d give future students he said, “study hard, don’t get too relaxed with online classes and always communicate with your professors, as they want you to succeed and will work with you if you just talk to them.”
He considers his family to have had the greatest influence on his life, including his grandma, parents and sister.
“There are a number of things about Jordan that give me joy and pride,” Hamilton said.
“Jordan has never given up or expected to be treated any differently because he couldn’t do what other children or adults his age were doing. I am proud to have Jordan as one of my grandsons. Our family is blessed because of him.”