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From the Pulpit to the Courtroom

Cowell serves Western Kansas as bishop and attorney

Bishop Mark Cowell

In times of greatest need, individuals often seek either a priest or an attorney.

Mark Cowell, jd ’94, serves as both from his home in Larned, Kansas, and the many communities he traverses through the roles he’s taken since leaving Washburn University School of Law. While he has been an attorney for 25 years, he has also been an Episcopalian priest for about 15 years, and in December, he was consecrated as bishop of the Diocese of Western Kansas.

“My education in the law gave me a very good discipline through which to do Bible study,” he said. “You’re meeting people sometimes when they’re having a crisis in their lives. You’re meeting them at an edge. At a point where they need help the most. That is not all that different than ministering people in the church.”

He’s also a municipal prosecutor in Dodge City, a second-term Hodgeman County attorney, and vicar of three separate parishes. He was raised in the Episcopal Church and felt called to ministry shortly after graduating. It’s not uncommon for Episcopalian bishops to have multiple vocations.

Cowell came to Washburn after living throughout the United States and even Europe. He said Washburn Law took a chance on him after his grades as an undergraduate weren’t that great.

“One of the things I realized, the professors were very interested in teaching us, and they did a very exceptional job of preparing us to think about how we were going to solve problems when we got out of law school,” he said.

When Cowell’s 1994 class graduated, he said about 10 of the new lawyers moved to Dodge City to take jobs. He doesn’t regret his decision to join them.

“There were job opportunities out here in Western Kansas, and we all kind of followed each other,” he said. “We got very lucky that we got to move with a group of friends all at once.”

His wife, The Hon. Julie Fletcher Cowell, jd ’86, is Pawnee County magistrate judge. They have three children.

“I met my wife when she was a prosecutor and I was doing defense work in Dodge,” Cowell said. “We found out we already knew how to argue with each other in the courtroom and remain friends. That worked well when we started dating.”

He enjoys the opportunity to serve and live in Western Kansas.

“People go out of their way to take care of each other,” he said. “If you live in a big city, you may not even end up knowing everybody in your apartment building. Out here, you know everybody. You know their children. You know their pets. You may even know their cattle and their brand. You take care of them. They take care of you. That’s a value to me.”

Jefferson bench

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1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604
Phone: 785.670.4483