Alumni Spotlight: Julie Cowan Novak, DNSc '89

Alumni Spotlight: Julie Cowan Novak, DNSc '89

USD SON’s first graduate from the Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc) program, which is now the PhD program, has created a legacy for nursing education with one of the most important people in her life.

Dr. Julie Cowan Novak, DNSc ’89, RN, CPNP, FAANP, FAAN, recently gifted USD SON $10,000 through the San Diego Foundation for nursing scholarships.

The Fund titled the “George W. Cowan and Julie Cowan Novak Fund at the San Diego Foundation” will provide scholarships to students at the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science who intend to pursue child and family healthcare research, nurse-led clinic development community-based research, or for those students pursuing the Doctor of Nursing Practice Pediatric Nurse Practitioner degree or Doctor of Nursing Practice Family Nurse Practitioner degree.

Dr. Novak said her Uncle George was the right person to work with on the fund.

“We were very close,” she said.  “Ever since my teen years and especially when my mother died. He flew from San Diego to Illinois where we were living and, when you have a loss, you remember those two or three people who were particularly helpful or really said the right thing or didn't say anything but sat by you and just held your hand. He was that person for me.”

Little did she know that 10 years later, she would be stepping off of a plane at Lindbergh Field, about to embark on a new phase in her career, and Uncle George was there to meet her.

“He and my Aunt Carol became like our grandparents for our three children,” Dr. Novak said. 

Uncle George and Aunt Carol were there for every milestone, including the day Dr. Novak walked across the stage to accept her doctoral degree at USD.

“They were in the third row and so proud,” she said. They were really surrogate parents, and he was such a sage mentor, advisor, friend, and really like a second dad.”

Dr. Novak and her husband Robert, also a professor, then began what she calls an “academic tour” around the United States, teaching at such prestigious institutions as the University of Virginia, where she developed the nurse practitioner program, Purdue University, where she obtained a $2.5 million research grant, and the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she became Vice Dean of the Health Science Center. 

“Five years ago, we were recruited back by UCSD, SDSU, Sharp Mary Birch, and most of all, my Uncle George because he was really excited for us to come back. And at that time, he was volunteering in a kindergarten classroom every week at 95 years of age and driving senior patrol with a partner and for Chula Vista police and working out three times a week, just this vibrant guy whose health age was probably more like 75 at the time and we really had talked about all of these things at our Saturday lunches at Point Loma.”

  • Click here to hear how Uncle George became the oldest worker’s compensation case in California. 

At those lunches in Point Loma, Dr. Novak and Uncle George began talking about their legacy.  They wanted to encourage nursing students to attain an advanced degree and they also wanted to provide for one of Uncle George’s favorite places.

“Balboa Park,” Dr. Novak said.  “He grew up in the park and remembers riding his bicycle to the 1935 exposition.” 

  • Click here to hear Dr. Novak talk more about her Uncle’s love for Balboa Park. 

On December 30, 2020, Uncle George passed away at the age of 100. It was a sad time for Dr. Novak.  But she was happy to honor her Uncle with a named scholarship.

“We met with the foundation and created the fund and it was really fairly easy to do,” Dr. Novak said. “You want a really clear delineation of what it is you want to do, and very clear messaging to the foundation that you might want to work with. For us, the San Diego Foundation has been so supportive.”

Dr. Novak and Uncle George commented on how impressed they were that the San Diego Foundation supported so many entities around the County such as  San Diego Food Bank and how the Foundation continues to support families during the pandemic.

“So, I think that that would also be my advice to anyone thinking of doing providing such a gift,” Dr. Novak said.  “You really need to look for that internal and external consistency that we all learn about in our graduate education and Uncle George was very pleased. I'm very pleased to support the scholarship fund and to continue to help it grow, and we hope that others might decide to help it grow.”

If you would like information on how to establish a gift, please contact us at

If you would like to give to the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, please click here.

begin quoteWe talked about appropriate priorities and education was at the top of the list, specifically, nursing education
Legacy of Giving

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