Fred Lowery, B.S. '94 Mechanical Engineering
Extending a Tennessee Tech education to a diverse student population, especially those facing financial barriers, is critical. In 1964, six black students, including four athletes, enrolled at Tech. Today, more than 400 Tech students identify as black, another 250 as Hispanic, and about 150 as Asian. While Tech’s student body has become more diverse throughout the years, Fred Lowery has made it his mission to ensure this continues to grow. Through the Ethnic Diversity Scholarship Initiative, Tech intends to raise at least $2 million for scholarships and programs for underrepresented racial or ethnic minority students and Lowery, a 1994 mechanical engineering graduate, is leading the effort.
“For Tennessee Tech to thrive, the student population must reflect the current and future workforce demographics and the demographics of the country,” he said. “Those demographics are becoming much more diverse, and Tennessee Tech cannot afford to fall behind. Students who attend a more diverse university will be more prepared to compete in today’s workforce."
After graduating from Austin-East High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1988, Lowery attended Tech on a football scholarship. He graduated from Tech in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in mechanical engineering.
Today, Lowery is a senior executive at Thermo Fisher Scientific, a U.S. $25 billion company focused on its mission to enable their customers to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer.
“At Tech, I learned how to frame and solve problems from my experience in engineering,” he said. “But I also learned how to interact with people in a way to bring out the best in every situation. Being able to frame a problem and come up with the right answer is important, but inspiring people to embrace a solution, or better yet empowering them to improve it, is a much higher calling.”
Lowery says he is eternally grateful for Wali Kharif, Marc Burnett, Leo McGee, and Angelo Volpe who served as mentors for him during his time at Tech. “Wali Kharif was a great inspiration to me,” he said. “He was a relatively new history professor at the time and the advisor for my fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He always took time to listen to our experiences, and even if he didn’t agree with our approach, he always supported our intentions. Marc Burnett was also a great director and protector of me throughout my time at Tech. He was behind the scenes making sure that we didn’t do anything that was going to derail us. Leo McGee was the head of Academic Affairs and a role model to many African American students. President Angelo Volpe was also a great support to me. While we didn’t know each other well, he always had a kind word for me and was visibly supportive of the African American students on campus.”
Lowery established the Fred M. Lowery Award Scholarship to encourage students from Austin-East High School to attend Tech and the Chi Lambda Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Scholarship to support the cardinal principle of the fraternity Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift.
Robert Owens, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, says he is grateful to Lowery for his efforts to promote the Ethnic Diversity Scholarship Initiative. “Students from Fred’s high school alma mater now have an even more tangible incentive to choose Tech as their college destination due to his efforts to establish a scholarship that has helped build a pipeline from Austin-East to Tech,” said Owens. “His establishment of another scholarship in the name of his fraternity also speaks to his strong connection to the university and his dedication to see it continue to positively grow and evolve. Fred is making a genuine impact, not only on Tennessee Tech University, but also on the state of Tennessee because of his passion to see young people attend a fantastic institution of higher education such as this.”
“My philanthropic efforts are centered on helping people reach their potential and supporting the institutions that have been the most influential in my life,” said Lowery. “In this case, that includes Austin-East High School, Tennessee Tech University, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and the East Knoxville community. I hope that students receiving these scholarships will discover their purpose and reach their full potential and give back to their communities to help someone else. My message to these students is to work hard, never ever give up, and help as many people as you can.”