Building eternity with hammer and nails
AFTER PASTORING SEVERAL CHURCHES in Washington, Joseph Earl Cowley worked as a carpenter and Plant Services manager at SPU from 1982 to 1999. People often heard him whistling songs outside Tiffany Hall, so he quickly became known as the carpenter who whistled while he worked.
Cowley was an accomplished finish carpenter, and he oversaw the remodeling of the president’s home on campus. He also worked with the Plant Services crew to implement high quality repairs that didn’t have to be redone, saving the University thousands of dollars every year.
In 1986, Cowley received two awards, “Classified Staff Person of the Year,” and the “Oral V. Hemry Award.”
“In life and in work, Earl wasn’t concerned about building a résumé. His bigger priority — his eternal priority — was showing God’s love and kindness to
the people around him,” said his daughter, PATRICIA DOYLE ’87. “Over the years, as I told people that my dad worked at SPU, they often assumed my dad was a professor. They’d ask me what subject he taught. I would reply that my dad was a carpenter who made a big impact. During my years as a student, although I made many friends, I was proud to be better known as ‘Earl’s daughter.’”
At SPU, Cowley was especially devoted to mentoring his fellow carpenters and the work-study students in Plant Services. He believed people should be able to work with their hands in some capacity, and he invested in everyone he worked with.
“If you happened to know Earl, even outside of Plant Services, then you knew he cared about you. It wasn’t just talk with him either. It was action. He freely
gave his time and his labor to others,” Doyle said.
Cowley went home to be with the Lord on July 9, 2022, at the age of 90.
Photo courtesy the Cowley family