Cover photo for Richard Kowles's Obituary
1932 Richard 2022

Richard Kowles

May 9, 1932 — August 22, 2022


It is with great sadness that the family of Richard “Dick” V. Kowles of Winona, MN announce his passing on August 22, 2022 at age 90.

Dick is survived by his five children, Douglas (Sandy) Kowles, Gregory Kowles, Debora (Jim) Erickson, Jeanne (Michael) Rye, Brian (Eileen) Kowles, 7 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild. He is predeceased by his parents Vince and Cecilia Kowaleski (Jaworski), his stepfather Max Shaikoski, his brother John Kowles, and his wife of 62 years Rose Marie Kowles (Barber.)

Dick was born May 9, 1932 at home in Ivanhoe, MN to Vince and Cecilia Kowalewski. Despite much adversity and setbacks growing up during the depression, he completed high school in Ivanhoe (1950) and earned his B.S. degree from Winona State University (1954.) He was a force of nature both in the classroom and on the sports fields.  At WSU he won a combined twelve letters while playing football, basketball, baseball, and track. He was the basketball Conference scoring champ in 1953 and All-Conference in football and basketball multiple years. Dick was inducted into the Winona State University Hall of Fame in 1986.

Fresh out of college, Dick took a teaching job on the Minnesota Iron Range in Keewatin, MN where he found both his passion for teaching and met the love of his life, Rose Marie Barber. Dick continued teaching at high schools and universities (including 10 formative years at Spring Valley, MN High School)  while earning a Master’s in education from Winona State University, a Master’s in Biology from St. Mary’s University and a PhD in genetics from the University of Minnesota, all while helping Rose raise their five children.

In 1972, Dick took a teaching position at St Mary’s University and moved his family to Winona, MN into an abandoned old schoolhouse (a renovation project that would keep Dick and Rose happily busy and swearing for decades.) During his 36 years at the university, he became renowned regionally and nationally as an expert in genetics and distinguished himself as both a researcher and a writer through the publications of books, textbooks, and scientific articles. He is revered for his extensive research on genetic aspects in maize (corn.) He has been awarded the title of distinguished professor emeritus, the Brother Charles H Severin Award and the Minnesota Science Teacher of the Year honor. Earlier this week, on August 24th, the new Genetics lab at SMU was dedicated to Dr. Kowles as a memorial to his dedication as a teacher, researcher and mentor. He wrote of this extraordinary honor, “It is a great culmination of a career that was filled with joy and fun of working with many young minds—students and colleagues who kept me young.”

Outside of the classroom, Dick’s lifelong passion was complaining about Minnesota sports teams (don’t even get him started on the Vikings.) And he never met a political argument that he didn’t relish. Of course, Dick and Rose also loved a great meal and a good bottle of wine…or two.

Dick taught for a total of 58 years. He once estimated that he showed up for 30,000 classes and played a role in the lives of over 10,000 students. His greatest reward was inspiring students to think and to learn. He truly found joy in science and loved sharing it! For those who were lucky enough to have known him or were one of those fortunate 10,000 students, he will be forever remembered for his brilliant mind, his great storytelling, irrepressible sense of humor, and his unshakable conviction and integrity. He will be dearly missed.

A memorial and celebration of his life will be held on Saturday September 10, 2022 at St Mary’s University, 700 Terrace Heights, in the Toner and President’s room between the hours of 12:30-2:30pm.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made “In Memory of Dr. Kowles” to either:

SMUMN (St Mary’s University of MN), 700 Terrace Heights, #21, Winona, MN 55987

or to Winona State University, Attn: Alumni Relations, 175 W Mark St, Winona, MN 55987

Hoff Celebration of Life Center – Goodview is assisting the family with arrangements.


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