Corporate executive Challis Lowe was born on July 21, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois to Clotilde Waller and Abner Waller. She graduated from Parker High School in 1962, and received her B.A. degree in communications from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1966. She later earned her M.B.A. degree in finance from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management University in 1978.
Lowe began her career at the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago. In 1972, she was named the first African American female vice president of the Continental Bank, at the time, the fifth largest bank in the U.S. She was senior vice president of Illinois Leasing Corporation, a subsidiary focused on domestic lease and debt financing transactions, when Continental Bank sold this business unit to Sanwa Bank, Ltd. of Japan in 1984. Lowe remained in Chicago as senior vice president of administrative services for the newly formed Sanwa Business Credit Corporation. In 1993, she became the executive vice president of human resources for the Walter E. Heller International Corporation. In 1997, Lowe moved into a similar role at the Beneficial Corporation, then the nation’s second largest consumer finance company. When Beneficial merged with Household International, Inc. in 1998, Lowe served as a consultant. In 2000, she moved to Florida, where she worked as the executive vice president of human resources, corporate communications and public affairs for Ryder System, Inc. Four years later, Lowe was hired as executive vice president of human resources of Dollar General where she remained until the acquisition of Dollar General by KKR & Co. L.P., a private equity company. In 2009, Lowe was recruited to serve as the senior vice president of organization development and human resources for Ascension Health, Inc., a position she held until her retirement in 2013.
In 1997, Lowe joined the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation board as a financial specialist to chair its newly formed Investment Committee; and in 2000, she became a trustee of the Kenwood Growth and Income Fund in Chicago. Upon relocating to Florida, she served on the Florida Memorial College Board of Directors in 2001, and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Board of Trustees in 2003, which she later chaired. In 2005, Lowe was elected as a board member and treasurer of the Executive Leadership Council. Lowe joined the Fisk University Board of Trustees in 2013, and was named to the board of directors of the Seaway Bank and Trust Company in 2014. In 2016, Lowe was named to the board of Catholic Health Initiatives where she chaired the Retirement Committee and served on its Audit Committee.
Challis Lowe was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 30, 2018.