Family of former UNCP Trustee Ralph H. Lowry establish a scholarship


More than 50 descendants of Ralph H. Lowry met in Old Main on April 13 to remember a patriarch and a former member of UNC Pembroke’s Board of Trustees.

A restored portrait of Lowry was unveiled in the History Room of the Native American Resource Center, and a scholarship was established in the School of Business to honor the former merchant and farmer.

“This is our fifth family reunion,” said Janet Leech, a granddaughter. “The scholarship was a collaborative effort among all of us. Ralph Lowry was a fervent believer in education, and almost all of his children went on to advance their education.”

Lowry was a trustee from 1929 to 1937 – when UNCP was known as the Cherokee Indian Normal School of Robeson County. Dr. Ken Kitts, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, thanked the family and commented on a remarkable life.
“We are here to pay tribute to a towering figure in the history of this university,” he said. “It’s appropriate we celebrate his remarkable legacy during this our 125th anniversary.

“Being a trustee in higher education is no easy undertaking,” Dr. Kitts said. “Mr. Lowry was a trustee during the depths of the Great Depression.”

As chairman, Lowry helped to celebrate UNCP’s 50th anniversary in 1937. He left an extraordinary record at the university. In 1929, there were only four graduates, but in 1937, there were 22. The school began seeing good times in a bad economy.

During Lowry’s tenure on the board, the campus grew to 11 buildings, with the addition of a women’s residence hall, a faculty cottage and an agriculture- home economics building. The school had just graduated its first students with two-year teaching degrees. While Lowry was on the board, plans were developed to add a third year to the college curriculum and to separate from the high school.

According to his obituary in The Robesonian newspaper, Lowry died unexpectedly on November 5, 1938, at the age of 64. His restored portrait and the scholarship will be a permanent reminder of his contributions to the university.

The achievements of Lowry’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are evident. “He passed on his hard-work ethic to his children,” Leech said. “He believed one of the keys to success is education, and many of his descendants attended this university.”

Because Lowry was a businessman, the family thought awarding the scholarship to a student in need of financial assistance who is in the School of Business would be appropriate, Leech said.

“An endowed scholarship is a lasting tribute to Ralph Lowry,” she said. “On behalf of the family, and in his memory, we would like to express our appreciation to UNCP and share in the university’s 125th anniversary celebration.”

Wendy Lowery, vice chancellor for Advancement, thanked the family for sharing its story with the university during the 125th celebration.

“We talk a lot about the UNCP family,” Lowery said. “You are here to celebrate your family and to embrace your part in the UNCP family.”

Dr. Stan Knick, museum curator for the Native American Resource Center, thanked the Lowrys for their gift to the collection.

“We are all here today because of people like Ralph Lowry,” Dr. Knick said. “This room is dedicated to the history of the university. What better place to put this portrait than with the rest of the school’s history?”

For information about the Ralph H. Lowry Scholarship or about giving at UNCP, please contact the Office of Advancement at 910.521.6252 or email