The next decade saw him singled out by TV Guide as one of “The Top Stars of the 90s”, and land a major role in CBS’ top-rated 1998 dramatic miniseries, “Mama Flora’s Family,” a performance which earned him the first of 13 NAACP Image Awards nominations, as well as the first of his six wins.
In 2000, People magazine named him one of its “50 Most Beautiful People” and in 2004 named him one of the “Sexiest Men Alive.”
Some of his more memorable cable and television movies include: HBO’s groundbreaking drama “In Treatment”; as well as NBC's "Murder in Mississippi"; HBO’s “Soul of the Game” and Sex & the City”; Steven Bochco's "City of Angels"; and TNT’s award-winning “Heat Wave”.
His theater credits include his acclaimed Broadway debut in the iconic role of Stanley in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” – which earned him a 2012 Drama League Distinguished Performance Award nomination. Prior to that he starred in an off-Broadway, one-man show "IM4: From the Mountaintop to Hip Hop" – written by his brother Frank Underwood – in which he played eight characters in all.
Underwood made his feature directorial debut with the independent drama “Bridge to Nowhere.” Additionally, he produced the TLC series “Million Dollar Christmas”. As director, executive producer, writer and star of the dramatic short “The Second Coming,” Underwood played Jesus Christ returning to earth. Underwood published his first book, a non-fiction bestseller called “Before I Got Here”, a collection of stories and anecdotes from parents that speak to the existence of a child’s soul prior to birth. He also portrayed Jesus in the audio book “The Bible Experience.” Since its release in October 2006, it has become the No. 1 selling audio Bible in history.
He has also co-authored several critically and reader acclaimed detective novels, the fourth installment of which, “South by Southeast”, will be released later this year.
In 2009, Underwood won a Grammy award for Best Spoken Word for former Vice President Al Gore’s album “An Inconvenient Truth” (with co-readers Beau Bridges & Cynthia Nixon).
Underwood is involved in numerous charitable organizations. His dedicated support of The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) won him the 1993 Humanitarian Award, presented by the Los Angeles Chapter of MDA. In 2003, Underwood, along with Ashley Judd, served as the spokesperson for YouthAIDS.
Underwood is also co-founder of Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA). Founded in 1989, by members of the arts and entertainment community, ANSA is a nonprofit organization working in the U.S. and South Africa to combat HIV/AIDS, assist children orphaned by the disease, advance human and civil rights, educate and empower youth, and build bonds between our nations through arts, culture, and our shared pursuit of social justice.
In 2009, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the United States’ largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider, announced the grand opening of their first AIDS treatment center in Washington DC – and the facility was named after Underwood in recognition of his longtime advocacy.
The consummate fundraiser, Cowen successfully led the “Promise and Distinction: The Campaign for Tulane” campaign which exceeded its $700 million goal, making it the largest university fundraising effort in the history of Louisiana. Upon the completion of a comprehensive university-wide planning process in 2012, he launched a $1 billion plus campaign to support the university’s long-term future.
Cowen also led Tulane through the most trying period of its history when, in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the University’s uptown and downtown health sciences campuses, and dispersed faculty, staff and students for an entire semester. Under his leadership, a sweeping Renewal Plan strengthened and focused the university’s academic mission and strategically addressed its operations in the post-Katrina era. As a result, a remarkable 87 percent of Tulane undergraduate students returned for classes in January of 2006, just months after the storm.
His response to Katrina was not limited to Tulane. Cowen was an integral figure on the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, leading a committee which reformed and rebuilt the city’s failing public school system. He also served as a commissioner of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, and was co-founder of the Fleur-de-lis Ambassadors program, a group of New Orleans civic leaders who, in the aftermath of the storm, spread the message nationwide that post-Katrina New Orleans was an economically viable, livable city with a recovery plan in progress.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. The recipient of several national awards and honorary degrees, Cowen was named one of the nation’s Top 10 Best College Presidents by TIME magazine in 2009, and was one of only four university leaders nationwide to receive the 2009 Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award. In 2010 he was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies.
Locally, he has received The Times-Picayune’s Loving Cup, which honors New Orleanians who have worked unselfishly for the community without expectation of recognition or material reward, and was also honored by New Orleans CityBusiness as one of the 30 “Driving Forces” in New Orleans in the last 30 year. Additionally, Gambit recognized Cowen as the New Orleanian of the Year.
Cowen, who as President also held the joint appointments as the Seymour S. Goodman Memorial Professor of Business in Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and Professor of Economics in the School of Liberal Arts, has held leadership positions in national academic and professional associations, including the American Council on Education, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the NCAA, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). He currently serves as a board member of the University of Notre Dame and as an overseer of TIAA-CREF.
Cowen’s areas of scholarship and teaching focus on strategic financial management systems, corporate governance and leadership. He has consulted with dozens of companies, from startups to Fortune 100 companies and is currently a board member of Newell Rubbermaid Inc. and Forest City Enterprises. He is the author of five books and more than 100 academic and professional articles, essays and reviews. His most recent book entitled, The Inevitable City: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban America, will be published in June 2014.
Cowen holds both a master’s and doctoral degree from The George Washington University in the fields of finance and management. He and his wife, Marjorie, have four adult children and four grandchildren.
A 1952 Xavier graduate, Morial also holds a master's degree from Boston University. She has five children.
She was a founder of the Louisiana League of Good Government, a non-partisan, interracial women's organization devoted to civil liberties and full participation in government for all Louisiana citizens.
Both her late husband and her son served as mayor of New Orleans. During their terms, Mrs. Morial worked to improve the quality of education and healthcare for minorities. She also served as executive producer of A House Divided, a highly acclaimed documentary about the desegregation of New Orleans.
At Xavier, she served in a variety of administrative roles for more than 20 years, including Associate Dean of the Drexel Center for Extended Learning, Vice President for Public Affairs, and Vice President for External Affairs. She retired in 2005.
Morial's other civic affiliations include the Metropolitan Area Committee, the United Fund, the New Orleans Council of Arts for Children and the Amistad Research Center. Her community involvement has merited many awards, including the Torch of Liberty Award of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, the Martin Luther King Lifetime Achievement Award, the Whitney M. Young Brotherhood Award and the National Council of Jewish Women's Hannah Solomon Award.
In 2011 she was presented the first ever Outstanding Mom of New Orleans award by Feeding Dreams, the General Mills company’s platform for celebrating the hero in African American women and the catalyst for its Feeding Dreams Get Together initiative, a grassroots program that provides intimate forums in communities across the country to discuss efforts to positively impact health and education in African American communities.
She served on the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana Board for 14 years. She is also a past Board Chairwoman of HMO Louisiana, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Cross.