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Recent OSU graduate Cortney Timmons Cowley named first recipient of national honor


Recent Oklahoma State University graduate Cortney (Timmons) Cowley has been named the first recipient of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers' Roger R. and Laura M. Yoerger Preprofessional Engineer of the Year Award.

Cowley earned the newly established honor in recognition of her "exceptional achievements as a scholar, leader, activist and engineer." The award was presented on June 24 in Reno, Nev., at the 2009 ASABE Annual International Meeting.

A native of Ada, she is a May biosystems engineering graduate with ties to both the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

"Cortney has an incredible combination of intellect, drive, personality and leadership," said Ron Elliott, head of the OSU department of biosystems and engineering. "Her fingerprints will remain on our department for many years to come."

The recently married Cowley is one of the most decorated students in OSU history, with Elliott saying he admires her as much for how faculty, staff and students enjoyed being around her as the technical expertise and competency she brought to every situation.

"Part of that is her great smile; there is also the humility, the care and concern she expresses for others, her talent for mentoring and her genuine service-first attitude," he said.

Cowley was named one of the top five graduating seniors in CASNR this past spring. The college also officially recognized her as a Dean Fred LeCrone Senior and as one of 12 CASNR Outstanding Graduating Senior award recipients.

The daughter of Steve and Lisa Timmons, she dreamed of attending OSU and majoring in biosystems and agricultural engineering since she was a freshman at Byng High School, doing both after graduating in 2004.

"Through classroom instruction, research, study abroad, leadership development, community service activities and peer and faculty monitoring, I discovered a reality that gave me more than just a great college experience," she said. "I was given a solid foundation upon which to build my future."

As an OSU Lew Wentz Research Scholar, Cowley studied the affects of agriculture and other land uses on soil microbial populations and investigated the use of advanced sensor technology to identify bovine waste deposits in riparian zones that are vital to stream health and water quality.

She traveled across the United States presenting workshops to future agriculturists on the importance of the agricultural sciences and environmental stewardship. During the past five years, Cowley filled her summers with skill-building internships and study abroad trips to Japan, England, Ireland and Mexico.

Cowley was honored during the 2008-2009 school year as an Oklahoma Recycling Hero for creating and implementing the "Real Cowboys Recycle" Tailgate Recycling Program. The program expanded throughout the year and the organization was recognized locally and regionally for its effectiveness and popularity.

Last spring, Cowley became the 15th OSU student to be named a national Harry S. Truman Scholar. Only 80 U.S. college juniors are selected each year. In 2007, she became the fifth OSU student to receive a national Morris K. Udall Scholarship, selected on the basis of her leadership potential, academic achievement and commitment to the environment.

She served as CEAT Student Council president during the 2007-2008 school year.

"In the past, engineers were important because they developed processes, structures and systems that made our lives easier and more productive," Cowley said. "Engineers today matter because they have the abilities to face global issues head-on and provide for the needs of the world's growing population without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to have the same quality of life that we now enjoy."

A 4-year member of ASABE, Cowley has held the position of historian and AEM Competition Report committee chair in the organization's student branch.

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