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Engineering Lab Supervisor Retires After 20 Years of Service

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Portia-Elaine Gant
Martin Kowis recently retired after 20 years with the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering as Laboratory Supervisor. Photos by Jeff Shaw.
Martin Kowis with fellow Civil & Environmental Engineering coworker, Shelia White.

After 20 years of distinguished service with the Cullen College of Engineering, Laboratory Supervisor Martin Kowis has retired.

Kowis, who spent 21 years with the FMC Corporation before coming to the University of Houston, came to work for the university in 1984 along with his wife Diana.

“I started here during the oil crunch,” Kowis said. “All the oil companies were laying people off, and there were a lot of people out of work. I was pretty fortunate to find this. My wife came about two weeks later. She went to work originally for mechanical engineering, and she ended up in development.”

Kowis, who said he cherished his relationships with the students most, spent his time in the Engineering lab constructing parts, conducting research and working with professors who receive building grants. He also had the opportunity to participate in some charitable projects.

“Dr. [John] Hunsucker got somebody to donate a big bell that came from a famous ship,” Kowis said, “and I got to make the part for it. They ended up donating it to the Girl Scouts in Galveston. I wouldn’t trade this for any job in the industry. I enjoy working with the students; they’re so appreciative of everything.”

Kowis’ students are not the only people who appreciated his work. Todd Helwig, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering who began working with Kowis in 1994, called Kowis a “great addition to the department.”

“He was always pleasing to work with because he was a real strength to the department,” Helwig said. “Anything you brought him he could fabricate and even come up with an idea that was better than the proposal.”

The Navasota native currently resides on a five-acre property, which he says will keep him busy along with his central hobby: fishing.

“I do a little tournament fishing, the King Fish Tournament,” Kowis said. “The states along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast have divisions. We have tournaments in Texas, and the top 15 boats get invited to the nationals which were in Mississippi later year. It’s a lot of fun. I wanted to retire when I was young enough to have a little enjoyment.”

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