MPP grad wins University Alumni Service Award

October 4, 2023 - Emily Jodway

Four outstanding Social Scientists and Spartan alumni received recognition from the Alumni Grand Awards Program, one of the most prestigious awards given out to alumni by the university. 

Larry Thompson (‘69) and Randolph Cowen (‘74’) each received the Distinguished Alumni Award, while Sarah Cantwell (‘05) along with her husband earned the Alumni Service Award. Bonnie Larson (‘70) earned the Philanthropist Award.

The MSU Alumni Office recognizes Spartans who positively reflect and enhance the prestige of Michigan State University with an Alumni Grand Award. The Alumni Grand Awards are intended to be given to the select few who rise above the accomplishments of most. In many cases, their life’s work has influenced industry, innovation, the arts, science and research on a national or global level and they are making an impact in their professions, their communities and for MSU. 

The Distinguished Alumni Award, given out this year to Larry Thompson and Randolph Cowen, is presented to alumni who have differentiated themselves by obtaining the highest level of professional accomplishment in their field. Larry Thompson  has been described as a dedicated public servant, a champion of social justice and a Spartan. Thompson earned his master’s from the College of Social Science in 1969 and has since led an extensive career in government, both in private practice and as a public company general counsel. From serving as U.S. Deputy Attorney General during the George W. Bush Administration to an Executive Vice President role at PepsiCo Inc., Thompson's actions never fail to reflect his commitment to equity and social justice. Read more about Thompson here.

Randolph ‘Randy’ Cowen graduated in 1974 with degrees from the College of Social Science (History), Arts & Letters and the Honors College. He is recognized as an outstanding entrepreneur, a longtime supporter of MSU and a spartan. Also described as a natural-born leader, Cowen has used his achievements to help rising leaders at MSU transform research in emerging industries. His guidance in entrepreneurship and corporate engagement, paired with his personal philanthropy, have made an invaluable impact on the MSU community.  

Following a 26-year career at Goldman Sachs and time spent on several for-profit and nonprofit boards, Cowen now serves as chair of the MSU Research Foundation Board, where he has served since 2013. He demonstrates a continued commitment to MSU by investing in the Physics and Astronomy Department through endowments, like The Jerry Cowen Endowed Chair in Experimental Physics, established in memory of his father, Professor Jerry Cowen. Read more about Cowen here

Bonnie Larson was honored with the Philanthropist Award, given to individuals, families, associations, corporations or foundations with a proven record of providing major, ongoing financial support and leadership to MSU and whose generosity inspires others. Bonnie is described as an inspirational philanthropist, cultural leader and Spartan. She earned her degree from the College in 1970. 

Larson is a long-standing advocate for the arts in Southeastern Michigan and at Michigan State. She has held leadership positions in iconic arts institutions, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Cranbrook Academy and Museum. She is one of the founding members of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum and past chair of its International Advisory Board. 

As an enthusiastic supporter of MSU Athletics, Larson currently serves on MSU Athletic Director Alan Haller’s AD Advisory Board. Additionally, she has endowed a scholarship for student athletes in men’s basketball in honor of Coach Tom Izzo. Larson also created the Cecile A. and Donald R. Borgeson Education Enhancement Fund within the Eli Broad College of Business, in honor of her parents. Bonnie Larson continues to inspire others with her unwavering dedication and commitment to philanthropic leadership, which has made a long-lasting impact at MSU and in the Detroit community. Read more about Larson here.

Sarah Cantwell, along with her husband Matthew, received the Alumni Service Award, given to alumni who have demonstrated service to MSU and/or meritorious public service on a local, state, national or international level. Sarah earned her master’s in public administration from the College in 2005, while Matthew is a 2004 graduate of the Eli Broad College of Business. They are known as dedicated community leaders, philanthropists and Spartans.

The Cantwells have dedicated considerable time and treasure at the international and national level through their service and leadership on the Alumni Advisory Board, with Sarah serving as president for two years. They have particularly provided significant leadership and support on behalf of Michigan State in New York and Chicago.  Both have held leadership roles with the MSU Alumni Club of Metro Chicago, the Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, and the MSU Alumni Club of Greater New York. They have continued the expansion and enhancement of SpartyBall, a best-in-class alumni gala that has raised significant support for Chicago Spartans MSU scholarship funds. They are shining examples of dedication in their leadership, engagement, philanthropic contributions and service to MSU alumni communities and beyond. Read more about Sarah and Matthew here

The 2023 Alumni Grand Awards recipients will be honored with a ceremony on Friday, November 3.