Redbird legacy: Blended family with deep Redbird roots
Jack Cowgill ’65, M.S. ’78, and Deborah (Kiekow) Johnson ’74, M.S. ’78, found their spouses at Illinois State. Decades later, after each had lost their partner to cancer, they married to create a blended family with deep Redbird roots.
Jack came to ISU planning to teach and coach. Debbie also chose Illinois State because of her teaching desire. “It was one of the best schools you could attend,” she said.
Jack and his first bride, Sally (Diver) ’65 settled in Gibson City, as did Debbie and David Johnson ’73, M.S. ’78. The couples became friends, with that bond developing into a courtship as Jack and Debbie transitioned through a time of grief.
They married in 2002, bringing together their five children, all with College of Business ties. The five also share a connection to ISU’s Conferencing Unit, where they worked for a combined total of 17 years.
Jack’s son, Todd ’89, is a Pekin Insurance regional claims manager. Jack’s daughter, Kristin Osman ’93, was a marketing manager prior to becoming a full-time mom. Her husband, Daron, is a 1992 grad.
Debbie’s oldest son, Greg ’02, is a Traveler’s Insurance regional sales director. Her twin sons, Doug and Brad, were Bone Scholars. Doug ’10 is a Munich Re underwriter. Brad ’11 is completing medical school.
“It was their own decision to attend,” Debbie said, explaining neither she nor Jack insisted their children enroll.
Now retired after each dedicated more than three decades to teaching, Jack and Debbie remain in Gibson City and stay connected to ISU. They enjoy athletic events and marvel at campus changes.
With four grandchildren, there is the possibility their Illinois State legacy will continue. “We will definitely mention ISU when they start thinking about college,” Jack said. “All of us enjoyed it so much. It’s a great place to be.”