Coffee with Corey: Pride, Loyalty, Demonland

By Corey Poole

Drake Owens might not be where he is today, at Northwestern State University, if he’d followed his original career path to become a chiropractor. However, the decision to start his journey at NSU was easy.

While most people from his hometown of Homer, Louisiana usually went to Tech or Grambling, Drake’s parents and grandmother went to NSU. His parents met on campus and Drake remembers the stories they shared about how friendly everyone was and how being a Demon was steeped in pride and loyalty.

Drake came to NSU in 2000 for a bachelors in biology. He also earned a masters in sports administration. When it came time to work as a graduate assistant and complete an internship, there were no openings in the athletics department where Drake wanted to eventually work.

Instead, he was directed to Chris Maggio at the Alumni Association where he could get beneficial experience in fundraising, marketing, and outreach. The goal was to use this experience in his future plans with athletics, but he soon fell in love with the Alumni staff and with the Alumni Association’s mission to promote the advancement of academic excellence by developing coalition among alumni, students, friends and the university community while supporting the university’s traditions, values, and future.

Drake left for a brief period to do some disaster relief work after Katrina, but returned to Northwestern in 2006 to serve as Assistant Director of Alumni & Development. In 2008 he stepped up to Director of University Advancement.

In the Fall of 2012, Drake moved to New Orleans to attend law school, returning to Natchitoches during the summers and working as an oil and gas assets manager.

Northwestern called him back home in 2015 where he stepped into the role of Assistant Vice President of External Affairs for University Advancement.

Fast forward to 2020 and Drake graduated with a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of New Orleans. 

“I always felt law school would translate well with the university if I didn’t go into law for myself,” Drake shared.

This was very true as Drake began to manage the Gallaspy Trust, where he serves as executive director. This generous bequest to NSU was made by Mary Rives Gallaspy, who dedicated her life to education and serving her community.

The donation includes 2,000 acres in the Haynesville Shale as well as a monetary bequest that together comprise the Mary Rives Gallaspy Charitable Trust, administered by the board of directors of the NSU Foundation.

Income from the trust funds two scholarships: the Hettie McMullen Fincher Scholarship in Mathematics and the Mary Rives Gallaspy Scholarship for Business and Education. The Fincher scholarship honors Gallaspy’s aunt, who graduated from Normal, as NSU was then known, in 1908.

What started with $20 million in assists has grown to roughly $40 million over the years.

“I don’t even have the words to describe how meaningful this has been,” said Drake. “It’s changed the trajectory of NSU.”

Besides managing this non profit, Drake also has a hand in policy development for the university, and serves as a member of the National Association of Colleges and University Attorneys where he keeps current on issues affecting higher ed. He is also a member of the American Bar Association, Louisiana State Bar Association, the National Association of Royalty Owners, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and the Association of Louisiana Alumni Executives.

Upon the passing of NSU legend Jerry Pierce in 2022, Drake was tapped to serve as Interim Executive Vice President for External Affairs. He also serves as executive director of the NSU Foundation.

A big part of his job at NSU involves fundraising, which Drake says has become more about public-private partnerships. One example is a big partnership between the university and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, aimed at graduating more nurses into the workforce. The goal is to put 300 more nurses into the workforce over the next 4 years and 1,000 more over the next 10 years.

Establishing relationships with governmental entities is also important to the work Drake does. This can include securing capital outlay monies, or going to Washington D.C. to meet with legislators, congressional delegations, and business leaders to talk about opportunities for state and federal funding. It doesn’t hurt that this takes place the same week as the Washington D.C. Mardi Gras Ball.

With everything in Drake’s work world, there isn’t much room left for anything else. He has less time for community involvement as an individual, but stressed how important it is. He is a member of the Natchitoches Rotary Club and is a past member of the Natchitoches Area Jaycees. He even served as an eagle scout for the Boy Scouts of America in his youth.

“I wish I could do more,” he said. “It all runs together, but raising money here at the university is almost like community service in its own way.”

In his spare time, Drake enjoys hunting deer and fishing for bass. His wife Courtney is a pharmacist and they have two children, Miller and Bailey. Weekends are always family focused. 

The best piece of advice Drake has to share is this: listen to what people say and try to understand their perspective and point of view.

“We all come from different backgrounds, we all have direct ways of thinking, and these things should be processed before any decisions are made,” he explained.

So, what’s kept Drake coming back to Natchitoches through he years? It’s the Southern charm. It’s the economic benefits because Northwestern and the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center are here.

“Having big players in town allows for more commerce, more restaurants and activities,” he shared. “It brings a lot of intelligent, well rounded, and cultural people to our small town. Natchitoches is big city enough for me. I love the downtown area and all the preservation work that’s done to preserve our history.”

And what are Drake’s top three reasons for his pride and loyalty toward NSU? Number one is the family atmosphere, followed by the alumni base and the beauty of the campus. He loves working in the Alumni building, circa 1927, which makes him feel like he’s part of a really old tradition.