Bill Lowrie gave constantly, in ways big and small
William G. Lowrie ’66 and his genuine support of Buckeyes earned him respect and appreciation wherever he went.
Bill Lowrie’s longtime, heartfelt service to Ohio State could be tallied in a recital of his multiple awards, committees he served on and transformative gifts that he and his wife of 53 years, Ernestine, made together.
However, recalling Lowrie’s smaller gestures — how he looked you in the eye, always listened with patience, sent notes of encouragement — seems more befitting of the humble and gracious manner in which he lived and touched so many lives.
“He didn’t look for any recognition for himself, but he would help the department and the university in any way he could,” says Umit Ozkan, chair of the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Many recall Lowrie ’66, who died October 8 at age 78, needing to be persuaded to allow the department to be renamed in his honor; the Board of Trustees had voted to make that change in recognition of a major donation that led to the new Koffolt Laboratories opening in 2015.
“He was more concerned for the students to have their own space and that the faculty be able to teach the way he felt would benefit them all,” says Jim Dietz ’69, ’70 MS, who served on the Koffolt building campaign committee, chaired by Lowrie.
Lowrie always credited the faculty mentorship he received as an Ohio State undergraduate for shaping his own career, which saw him rise to become president of Amoco Corp. and later serve as deputy CEO of BP Amoco in London before retiring in 1999.
One of the many ways Lowrie paid forward was endowing two professorships, one for Ozkan. He also occasionally served as a guest lecturer and showed his gratitude in more subtle ways, too, such as checking in on countless Ohio State students. One of those former students is Kathy Eftimoff Milenkovski ’89, who still has the letters he sent her during her college internship at Amoco in New Orleans.
“He personalized the experience for me, and it really left a positive impression with me about his leadership,” says Milenkovski, an attorney for American Electric Power. “Now that I’m in a management role myself, I aspire to hopefully be like that on some level with the people who work for me and look out for them. You don’t know how those little gestures might impact somebody.”
At a Faculty Club luncheon a few weeks before he died, Lowrie was introduced to several new faculty members hired by Ozkan.
“He was so interested in getting to know each and every one of them,” she says. “He really loved supporting, encouraging and mentoring young people, whether it was faculty or students.” Lowrie’s genuine style made him a treasured Buckeye. “Bill was highly regarded by everyone,” Dietz says. “He was very attentive to whoever was speaking, heard them out, and — even if he didn’t agree — he was responsive. That just earned him a lot of respect with people.”