Graduating senior returns to Iowa State to honor late wife

Mark Coverdale standing in front of a gray background
Mark Coverdale, senior in agricultural business, is completing his degree in honor of his late wife Josie. 

By Madelyn Ostendorf

On Dec. 15, Mark Coverdale will join the rest of the fall 2023 graduating class as he earns his degree in agricultural business. Though his journey to the stage differed from most of his classmates’, his time at Iowa State University has been special.

Coverdale returned to Iowa State to complete his bachelor’s degree in honor of his wife, Josie (’00 MS animal nutrition, ’03 PhD), who passed away in 2016. The two met while Josie was pursuing her degrees on campus and Coverdale was working in Ames. Following Josie’s graduation, the couple moved to her home state of Texas, where Josie taught equine science at Texas A&M University.

“I was working, she was studying,” Coverdale said. “We had always talked about me going back and getting my degree, but there just never was a reason for me to do it. Then she was gone, and I didn’t have a reason not to.”

Coverdale returned to Iowa to study agricultural business at Iowa State, partly to assist in the operation of his family farm and partly because his wife’s graduate students at Texas A&M talked about how excited they were about it, which convinced him to pursue the degree.

“I wanted to go to Iowa State 25 years ago, so it just seemed like the natural place to return to,” Coverdale said. “I could have gone to Texas A&M. I was still living down there at the time after my wife passed away. But Iowa State is just kind of where my heart is.”

While working toward his degree, Coverdale found out his financial advisor was retiring and offered Coverdale the opportunity to take over his business. So Coverdale adjusted his end goal and spent six hours a day for three months studying for the two licensing exams to take over the business. Coverdale had been interested in stocks and economics since he was 15, so when the opportunity came, he couldn’t pass it up.

Coverdale said he had many great professors who impacted him, including Howard Tyler, assistant dean of undergraduate and graduate student services and success, his wife’s doctoral professor. Coverdale meets with Tyler for lunch almost weekly, bouncing ideas off each other and discussing Coverdale’s path.

“Mark’s academic journey has been amazing to watch,” Tyler said. “He didn’t just complete his degree after leaving college for an extended time, which is incredibly difficult all by itself. Mark maintained high academic excellence while also staying actively involved in his family farm and traveling back to work there most weekends. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, and we can only hope that his example inspires future generations of adult learners to chase their dreams.”

Coverdale said he wouldn’t change anything about his academic journey, encourages other adult students not to wait if they are interested in returning, and hopes young students enjoy their college experience.

“So many people just want to get through it as fast as they can and not take time to enjoy other parts while they’re here,” Coverdale said. “Make the most out of this because you’ve got to be an adult when you're done.”