By Amy Vander Stoep and Joan Neumahr
A successful businessman, accomplished athlete and active alum, Mark Lowry ’77 is working hard to make the world a better place. “The basic core values I learned at the College – connecting learning, beliefs, and actions – have stayed with me my whole life,” he states. “As a senior director for the network management team of The First Tee, what I do every day is geared toward helping others.”
The First Tee is a youth-oriented initiative of the World Golf Foundation, with a mission to provide basic golf instruction while promoting life lessons. “We’re dedicated to providing a safe and positive learning environment for under-served, minority students,” Lowry explains. “I work at the administrative end, managing the Midwest, Southeast, Central Atlantic and Northeast regions. Working with my four regional directors, I help non-profit organizations set up, fund and operate First Tee chapters.”
“We emphasize what we call our nine core values throughout the learning process. Golf is different from football and basketball. In those sports, you try to take advantage of your opponent anyway you can,” Lowry points out. “At First Tee, we teach the kids to call their own penalties, take responsibility for their actions, show respect to others, and more.”
Lowry has seen firsthand how golf helps provide excellent life skills for young people. “I was at a congressional breakfast in Washington, D.C. recently to hear two of our students talk about the benefits of our program,” he says. “A young man from Chicago and a girl, originally from Colombia, spoke before more than forty congressmen. Active in First Tee for many years, they have both received full scholarships to college.”
Friends and former classmates consider Lowry’s work at The First Tee to be a natural progression in a life filled with learning and service.
Keith French ‘83, a former classmate and teammate, remembers Lowry as being an influential person from the start. “We went to high school together (in the Chicago area),” he recalls. “He was two years ahead of me and definitely someone who everyone looked up to. He talked about going on to college and back then, in that place, that was a very big deal.”
French, now Senior Director of Sales at Leverage Point Media, remains enthusiastic to this day about the influence Lowry has had on his life. “Mark was and always will be my hero. When I was a high school senior, he came to see me play in the Public League Christmas Tournament and totally changed my life.” In fact, it was during the basketball tournament that Lowry asked French to consider going to Edgewood College. “He said, ‘Why don’t you come up and play with me during my senior year?’” French fondly remembers. “I was sixteen and visiting him on campus was one of those things that I’ll never forget.”
After earning his degree in business administration, Lowry worked in private industry for many years. But his success in the private sector didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for helping others. Indeed, a commitment to community service has always been a powerful theme in Lowry’s daily life.
For French, these tireless efforts on behalf of others are not a surprise. “Lowry was always community-minded,” notes French, “and it didn’t change when he graduated. He immediately joined a club of young professional men who were dedicated to mentoring young people. They were always putting together fund-raising events to help students.”
Later in his career, Lowry took on the challenge of sports marketing for Chicago Public Schools. “I wanted to introduce kids to nontraditional sports such as golf and tennis,” he remembers. “I started the CPS Junior Golf Program in 1995, working with local golf courses.”
Lowry found it easy to move from CPS to The First Tee. “The only problem is that I used to have a handicap of three. Now that I’m in the golf industry, I’m up to eight,” he laughs. “It’s hard for me to find time to simply go out and play these days.”
Despite his busy schedule, Lowry continues to find time to stay connected with Edgewood College. “I really enjoyed my experience at Edgewood,” he recalls. “It was in the late ‘70s and there was an active movement to recruit more minorities on campus. The city of Madison was very integrated at the time and had a good relationship with the school so I never felt out of place as an African-American.”
Lowry fondly recalls the supportive environment of the College. “I was attracted to the warm, friendly, small school setting, and the great professors and coaches. I also enjoyed the fact that I could play on the basketball team even though I was never a potential NBA draft pick. I recommend the school because education comes first and athletics come second.”
“I have tried to stay connected with the school, especially through their basketball program,” Lowry says. “We have a First Tee chapter in Madison so that affords me the opportunity to get to the school at least three to four times a year. Plus, I work with Edgewood’s golf and Jam the Gym programs.”
Edgewood College continues to inspire Lowry. “Just talking about my days at Edgewood brings a smile to my face,” he concludes. “I feel it’s my time to give back. I encourage all alumni to think back on what Edgewood meant to them and return for a visit to see how they can help.”