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Jim Cowell

January 25, 2021

To: The Campus Community
From: Margo Steurbaut, Vice President of Administration and Chief Financial Officer
Date: January 25, 2021
Re: Jim Cowell

It is with mixed emotions that I write to announce that after more than a decade of service to Caltech, Jim Cowell, the assistant vice president for facilities, will leave the Institute on February 26 to pursue new professional ventures. 

During his time here, Jim became a respected campus leader, whose keen understanding for facilities management and operations informed the reorganization of the facilities department and positioned Caltech operations for future success. He led Institute efforts in design and construction; security and parking; shop, grounds, and custodial services; environmental health and safety; and emergency response operations. Under his leadership, Caltech built 10 LEED-certified buildings, including the Hameetman Center, the Bechtel Residence, and the Chen Neuroscience Research Building. In addition to re-conceptualizing the physical landscape of the campus and marshalling capital projects that have dramatically reshaped the physical campus, Jim worked closely with the divisions and faculty to design and renovate dozens of laboratories that all support the Institute's research and education initiatives. 

Under Jim's leadership, the facilities group created and led campus sustainability efforts that made Caltech a local leader in sustainability and netted significant savings in present and future utility costs. Initiatives implemented in this area included reengineering landscaping and ground services and establishing a Green Revolving Fund to finance Caltech's Energy Conservation Program. 

Alongside his daily responsibilities, Jim, as the lead for Caltech's emergency operations, has served as incident commander for the day-to-day management of Caltech's pandemic planning and response efforts. Over the past year, he has brought together employees and administrators from across the Institute to implement, collectively and coherently, the Institute's pandemic policies and to plan and implement the preventative measures that mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our community. 

In addition to Jim's contributions, his wife, Judi, has had a profound impact on the campus community through her leadership of the Caltech Women's Club (CWC). 

Upon Jim's departure, John Onderdonk, Caltech's senior director for facilities services and planning, will assume the role of interim assistant vice president for facilities. A national search—led by search committee chair Ken Hargreaves, Caltech's external relations officer and assistant vice president for strategy implementation—will commence immediately.

Please join me in thanking Jim for his service to Caltech, and in wishing him and Judi well in their next chapter.