COW Community Urges Board of Trustees to Reconsider Lowry Center Name Change

COW Community Urges Board of Trustees to Reconsider Lowry Center Name Change

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Aspen Rush started this petition to Students and

We, members of The College of Wooster community, sign this petition in support of a renaming of the Lowry Student Center to a name that reflects the College's core principles of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Dr. Howard Lowry has a long and well documented history of predatory behavior towards recent graduates of the College. We recognize that Howard Lowry is responsible for bringing Independent Study to Wooster, and all of the positive benefits that has yielded for The College. We do not dispute that his contributions helped to put Wooster on the map. As such, we are not advocating to erase all evidence of Lowry's contributions. We support the renaming of the central building on campus as a means to facilitate healing for survivors and to send a message to the College of Wooster's community: We see you; we believe you; we care.

Lowry's behavior has been an open secret both during his term as president and in the years following his death. As the #MeToo movement began to gain traction in 2017, alumni were inspired by troves of women who began speaking out about sexual misconduct. For decades, Irene, an alumn of the College, kept her discomfort to herself, assuming that her experience was an isolated incident. At the time, she says, “the words ‘sexual harassment’ were not in our American vocabulary.”

That year, Irene conferred with a former classmate, Mary Behling ’62 and realized that she was not alone in her experience. Irene reached out to the Voice, who launched an investigation regarding her claims.

 Below is a link to the article regarding the predatory behavior of Dr. Howard Lowry by Maggie Dougherty. It was published by The Wooster Voice in April 2021. To read the full article, visit The Voice’s website:  

"“The Complicated Legacy of President Howard Lowry: As Our Values Evolve, Do Our Heroes Change as Well” 

After Dougherty notified administration of the upcoming article, the Board of Trustees launched their own review process.


The review did not find any evidence that Lowry engaged in illegal or "improper" behavior with students. However, it is important to note that this does not extend to recent graduates. Lowry has an established pattern of initiating inappropriate behavior with alumni that were barely in their twenties. Lowry leveraged his power as a well respected college president over recent graduates thirty years his junior. While Lowry may not have committed any crimes, his conduct was inappropriate considering this power dynamic.

In a follow up article, the Voice outlined the review process, subsequent findings and the recommendation of the Special Committee. 

As the College has never contended with a name change, the Special committee looked to other universities for guidance. They decided to adhere to the Principles and Procedures for Renaming Buildings and Other Features at Stanford University .

Below is an outline that fulfills the requirements of the chosen guidelines:

The sources and strength of the evidence of that behavior:

The evidence compiled against Howard Lowry is significant. During his thirty years as president, Lowry acquired a reputation for pursuing young women. There is a well established pattern of short-lived relationships with women significantly his junior. 

In his will obtained by the Voice, Lowry instructed that his letters, notes and any books with extensive notation be burned or destroyed upon his death, unless deemed particularly worth saving. As such, little of his correspondence remains. Given this information, the amount of evidence available to exemplify his predatory behavior is striking.


Howard Lowry: A Life in Education, a biography published in 1975 by James Blackwood

An excerpt from Blackwoods book:

“Talking with this young woman in the next few days, Howard told her of his great interest in her views. When could they talk further? Soon, he hoped. They went out to dinner and attended the theater; they listened to records, they talked by candlelight. For Christmas, he gave her the album of a symphony or the first edition of a book she admired. On her birthday, he sent her, as he sent and would continue sending each one, in turn, a blaze of red roses. At night he walked with her as he had walked, slowly and meditatively, with Fran, Aileen, Elma, Helen, Ruth, Virginia, and the rest.” Each one in turn. And the rest. 

Later in Blackwood’s book, he expands the list of names that make up ‘the rest,’ adding to the list of young women Gladys, Margaret, Janet, Jo, Eleanor, Norma, Louise, Anne, Mary, Beth and again, “the others.”

Despite the normalization of the “boys will be boys” mentality at the time, Lowry’s behavior was extreme to the point of atypicality, as evidenced by the extent to which it was written about throughout his life.

Transcripts from interviews conducted by author Jared Footlick

Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies Gordon Tait: “Well, I think, I’ve heard enough stories from certain alumni that Howard might have been accused of female harassment, if he’d lived to…”

Accounts from women he pursued, especially in relation to jobs and gifts

Irene ’62

  • Irene was inspired by the #MeToo movement and has been an active participant in the investigation. 
  • Lowry was known to create jobs at the College for women he pursued. He offered to make Irene Dean of Women. 
  • He gifted Irene a full-length sheer, powder blue negligee that is still in her possession.
  • Lowry sent a $300 check ($2,275 today) to cover her airfare to visit him in Chicago to discuss his advice for post-graduate plans for grad school. She went along with meeting him, she explains, without realizing his more romantic intentions, but rather expecting career advice from her trusted school leader. 

Mary Behling ’62

Note: Behling passed away in 2018 but Irene has provided her email correspondence between the two. 

Irene thought she was alone in her experiences with Lowry. Upon speaking with Behling, Irene came to realize that she was just one of many.

  • In an email to Irene on October 17, 2017, Behling wrote, “When we get together I will tell you all about my problems with HL. And I keep meeting other people who had them… they fall out of the sky. He was a predator.”
  • In another email to Irene on June 3, 2018 Behling wrote, “You and I appear to have survived Howard because we were relatively strong people, naïve but strong. The ones I feel sorry for are the ones whose lives were really messed up by him and my sense is there were many of those over the years.”
  • Behling’s stories about Lowry include an account of an intervention by the “powers-that-be” at the College to “knock it off” with his predatory ways after an angry father caused a scene.

Unnamed Woman

The woman was unable to be reached so her name has not been included in the interest of privacy. 

In four letters found in the Special Collections archive, Lowry writes to a graduate from 1953, in a series of attempts on Lowry’s behalf to meet the young woman during his business travels.

- First Letter: Jan. 1, 1954

Lowry wrote that he was sorry that his most recent trip had not overlapped with the graduate’s time there. “That was really too bad — for I would have insisted on you knocking off work and going fishing with me,” wrote Lowry, underlining the world ‘really’ for emphasis. Lowry would have been in his early 50s at the time; the graduate in her early 20s. He then outlines his schedule for the coming weeks, and requests that she send him her plans for the same period. He writes, “I still think the Florida business [i.e., failing to be there at the same time] was a shame, as I should have so much enjoyed introducing you to some nice bass and of setting the world in order with you.”

- Second Letter: Feb. 16, 1954

The letter begins, “Foiled again, I was!” He again describes their failure to overlap in location and outlines his upcoming travels. On the second page of the letter, he continues in his appeals for her schedule, writing, “I don’t suppose your route is yet clear. But I feel balked and a little mad at having been deflected from my Alabama stopover; so I’d like to twist the [unclear] of circumstance yet!” He references writing a letter on her behalf, and then expresses once more his disappointment over their inability to cross paths. 

- Third Letter: Mar. 15, 1954

The third letter, dated March 15 of the same year, again expresses dismay over their inability to meet. The fourth and final letter in the collection dated March 30, 1954 voices Lowry’s excitement that they have finally found a date and location to meet and he discusses the proper attire for their dinner together. 

There is no further correspondence and it is unclear whether or not they met. 

The specific behavior(s) or course(s) of conduct by the person after whom a feature is named that violate the University’s mission and core principles:

An excerpt from Wooster’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan:

“Wooster holds an historic commitment to a diverse community of learners and a long-standing understanding that equity and inclusion are necessary for excellence.”

In continuing to allow the student center, the central building on campus, to bear the Lowry name, the College will actively work against its core principles. By particularly making victims of sexual harassment feel excluded or unwelcome in such an important campus space — where students eat, get mail, and perform other crucial functions — keeping the name on this space prevents a subset of our community from participating fully and effectively in the Wooster mission. Based upon extensive evidence outlined above, there is an established pattern of sexual harassment of recent graduates. 

While Lowry has long since passed, the memory of his behavior still echoes throughout campus. In refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by Lowry, The College of Wooster community cannot make strides towards diversity, equity or inclusion as it simultaneously condones the predatory behavior of its former president, boasting his name on the most centric building on campus.

The nature, depth, and extent of the harm that the continued use of the name may inflict on the University’s integrity, mission, and communities:

The Lowry Center is meant to be an accessible and welcoming place to all students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, and other members of The College of Wooster community. By having the building named after someone who had a clearly established pattern of sexual harassment, we make this crucial space on our campus less accessible to those who have endured sexual harassment in their own lives and now feel uncomfortable in this space. 

While we recognize the importance of Lowry’s contributions to the College, continuing to centralize him on the campus community is an insult to those who have experienced sexual assault and harassment, particularly Wooster alumn mentioned in this document. Their positive experiences at the College are overshadowed by the continued celebration of Lowry. 

George Browne, who has more than twenty-two family members who have graduated from the College, wrote a Viewpoint titled  Lowry's Legacy Haunts Alumn published in the Voice published Nov. 5. 

“I do not question the quality of a Wooster education or the ongoing quality of faculty, programs and students. The refusal to recognize the clay feet of a lecherous President makes mockery of his sanctification… Over the decades, we have been loyal alumni. We endowed a scholarship at the College, and made regular annual gifts to the Wooster Fund. Physical therapists and academics don't often earn enough to make headline grabbing contributions. For now, our annual gifts will go elsewhere. Likewise, as our grandchildren look for colleges that will enhance their lives, we cannot recommend Wooster anymore.”

Maggie Dougherty '21, the original author of the investigative piece, wrote a viewpoint entitled Board of Trustees Dismisses Lowry's Predatory Behavior 

"The board asserts that “When Dr. Lowry was made aware that his romantic advances were unwelcome, he ended them.” This completely misses the power differential involved in his relationships. The alumna I recently met explained that as a student receiving that invitation, “I did not have the option of saying no to dinner with him, as the President of the College. I know that"... 

"The board puts alumni and donor interests above the wellbeing of their students. As Irene described, “Depressing. An archaic decision to line their pockets for donor bricks and mortar instead of uplifting the quality of C.O.W. souls, particularly young women.” 

How renaming comports with the principles described in this document:

While renaming the student center will not undo the harm Lowry inflicted, it is a step towards healing. Renaming sends a message to students and alumn alike: We believe women. We stand by survivors and we will not condone predatory behavior, then or now. 







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