Ribbon cutting officially opens Brenda Cowan Elementary
Family, colleagues, and local officials agreed at the Aug. 12 ribbon-cutting ceremony that naming the newest elementary in Fayette County Public Schools after the late Brenda Cowan was an easy call. “She was a hard worker with a great attitude and an unmatched sense of humor,” Lexington Fire Chief Kristin Chilton said during the outdoor program. “She was the type of person you’d want your child to be like.”
Cowan, who joined Engine 18 in 1992, died in 2004 -- a month after her promotion to lieutenant – after she was shot while responding to a domestic disturbance call. “Brenda was a huge part of our fire family,” said Chilton, who had trained with Cowan, the first black woman in the Lexington Fire Department. Her death prompted procedure changes to help ensure firefighters’ safety.
Firefighters and police came out in force Monday morning to show respect for the fallen colleague, and some 500 people assembled under a huge tent to hear about the school’s namesake and celebrate her legacy.
On behalf of Cowan’s family, first cousin Rachel Moxley donated her fire helmet and Medal of Valor, which the school immediately put on display in a glass case near the front entrance. “Today we know its purpose and where it belongs,” Moxley said in thanking the community for honoring her cousin, who grew up wanting to make a difference. “Our family is so grateful. The outpouring of love is overwhelming,” she added.
Mayor Linda Gorton echoed Chilton in calling Cowan a wonderful role model for everyone. “We want all students to believe all things are possible for them,” Gorton said. “Brenda Cowan can teach them a lot about life, about service, about honor.”
An honor guard from the Lexington Fire Department had opened the ceremony by raising the U.S. flag in front of the school building at 4801 Athens Boonesboro Rd. near I-75. Music teacher Joseph Wrightson sang the national anthem, and first-grader Hudson Peden led the audience in the pledge of allegiance. After the special remarks and ribbon cutting, the guests filed inside for a bite of cake and a quick tour. “I’m proud of the work this staff has done to make sure this school is ready for students on Wednesday,” said Principal Josh Williams.
School board chair Stephanie Aschmann Spires noted that this latest elementary school represents the community’s growth. She thanked the families affected by the rezoning in the Chilesburg area for embracing the change and advocating for every child who will attend Brenda Cowan Elementary. “I’ve heard so many amazing stories,” Spires added. “Ms. Cowan really was a class act and a heroine in our community. Naming the school for her was the right decision.”