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Calvin Lowe

Education administrator and physicist Calvin Lowe was born in Roanoke Rapids, Michigan in 1955. After graduating from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with his B.S. degree in physics, Lowe enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he earned his M.S. degree in plasma physics in 1979. Upon completing his doctoral thesis, “Optical Properties of Graphite Intercalation Compounds,” Lowe graduated from MIT with his Ph.D. degree in solid state physics in 1983.

Upon graduation, Lowe began teaching as an associate professor of physics at the University of Kentucky. In 1987, Lowe was appointed as an associate professor of physics at Hampton University and was named chair of the department of physics. He left Hampton University in 1992 and moved to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical State University in Huntsville, Alabama where he served as chair of the department of physics from 1992 to 1995. In 1996, Lowe returned to Hampton University and he served as the vice president of research and dean of the graduate college. In that position, he was instrumental in building an internationally recognized atmospheric-sciences research group. Lowe was named the ninth president of Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland and served from 2000 to 2006. While at Bowie, Lowe was as a member of the Task Force to Study College Readiness for Disadvantaged and Capable Students. Lowe has also served as the vice president of research and program development at the National Institute for Aerospace. In 2011, Lowe was appointed as the dean of the School of Science at Hampton University.

In addition to serving as faculty and administrator, Lowe served as a member of the board of Directors for the University System of Maryland from 2000 to 2006. He is a member of the American Physical Society, the National Society of Black Physicists and the Association of University Technology Managers. In 2011, Lowe received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Lowe lives in Maryland with his wife, Tanya, and their two adult children, Maya and Calvin. His brother, Dr. Walter Lowe, is a professor of physics at Howard University.

Calvin Lowe was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 25, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.072

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/26/2013

Last Name

Lowe

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

First Name

Calvin

Birth City, State, Country

Roakoke Rapids

HM ID

LOW06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Michigan

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/9/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Hampton

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Physicist and education administrator Calvin Lowe (1955 - ) was the former vice president of research and program development at the National Institute for Aerospace and the ninth president of Bowie State University.

Employment

University of Kentucky

Hampton University

Alabama A&M State University

Bowie State University

National Institute of Aerospace

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624401">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Calvin Lowe's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624402">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Calvin Lowe lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624403">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Calvin Lowe describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624404">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Calvin Lowe describes his mother's growing up in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624405">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Calvin Lowe describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624406">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Calvin Lowe describes his father's interest in tinkering with gadgets and building tools</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624407">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Calvin Lowe talks about his father's career as a construction worker</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624408">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Calvin Lowe talks about his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624409">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Calvin Lowe talks about his likeness to his parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624410">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Calvin Lowe talks about growing up in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624411">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Calvin Lowe describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624412">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Calvin Lowe talks about his family's pets</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624413">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Calvin Lowe describes the sights, smells and sounds of growing up in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624414">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Calvin Lowe talks about his first school in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624415">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Calvin Lowe talks about his sister attending college at North Carolina College, and the desegregation of schools in North Carolina in the 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624416">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Calvin Lowe describes his experience in elementary school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624417">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Calvin Lowe talks about his exposure to science, television, books and magazines as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624418">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Calvin Lowe describes his experience as one of the first African American students to integrate William R. Davie School in Roanoke Rapids</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624419">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Calvin Lowe describes his experience at the integrated Northwest High School in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624420">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Calvin Lowe talks about his relationship with his twin brother, Walter Lowe</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624421">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Calvin Lowe describes his experience in high school and graduating early</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624422">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Calvin Lowe talks about graduating early from high school, and the political events of the 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624423">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Calvin Lowe describes his experience as an undergraduate student at North Carolina A and T State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624424">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Calvin Lowe talks about his interest in physics at North Carolina A and T State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624425">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Calvin Lowe describes his decision to pursue his Ph.D. degree in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his experience there</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624426">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Calvin Lowe talks about losing interest in physics research while he was at MIT, and his interest in teaching</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624427">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Calvin Lowe talks about his brother attending Stanford University, and his mentor, Mildred S. Dresselhaus, at MIT</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624428">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Calvin Lowe describes the challenges that he faced as a graduate student at MIT, and his interest in teaching and mentoring</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624429">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Calvin Lowe talks about his master's thesis research at MIT</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624430">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Calvin Lowe describes his doctoral research at MIT on the optical properties of graphite intercalation compounds</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624431">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Calvin Lowe describes the findings of his doctoral dissertation work on graphite intercalation compounds</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624432">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Calvin Lowe describes his experience at the University of Kentucky</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624433">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Calvin Lowe talks about the University of Kentucky and race relations in Kentucky in the 1980s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624434">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Calvin Lowe talks about meeting his wife and getting married in 1984</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624435">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Calvin Lowe talks about his decision to leave the University of Kentucky and join Hampton University's physics faculty - part one</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624436">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Calvin Lowe talks about his decision to leave the University of Kentucky and join Hampton University's physics faculty - part two</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624437">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Calvin Lowe describes his involvement in establishing Hampton University's Research Center for Optical Physics and a doctoral program in physics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624438">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Calvin Lowe talks about leaving Hampton University in 1992 to become the head of the physics department at Alabama A and M University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624439">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Calvin Lowe talks about his experience as the head of the physics department at Alabama A and M University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624440">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Calvin Lowe describes his role as the dean of the graduate school and vice president of research at Hampton University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624441">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Calvin Lowe talks about becoming the president of Bowie State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624442">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Calvin Lowe describes his involvement in establishing new buildings at Bowie State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624443">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Calvin Lowe talks about his involvement in establishing a High Performance Computing (HPC) cluster at Bowie State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624444">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Calvin Lowe talks about his involvement in strengthening the athletic programs at Bowie State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624445">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Calvin Lowe talks about his decision to step down from his role as the president of Bowie State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624446">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Calvin Lowe describes his decision to become the vice president of research and program development at the National Institute of Aerospace</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624447">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Calvin Lowe describes his contributions as the vice president of research at the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA)</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624448">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Calvin Lowe talks about his son's death in 2010</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624449">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Calvin Lowe describes the goals for the future of the School of Science at Hampton University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624450">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Calvin Lowe talks about the marine science program at Hampton University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624451">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Calvin Lowe talks about the computer science program and nanoscience concentration at Hampton University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624452">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Calvin Lowe talks about expanding the Ph.D. programs at Hampton University to facilitate its growth as a research institution</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624453">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Calvin Lowe reflects upon his future in academic administration and talks about the balance between research and teaching at universities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624454">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Calvin Lowe reflects upon providing outreach programs and support towards secondary schools</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624455">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Calvin Lowe describes his research interest in boron nitride nanotubes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624456">Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Calvin Lowe reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624457">Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Calvin Lowe describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624458">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Calvin Lowe reflects upon the future of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624459">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Calvin Lowe talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/624460">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Calvin Lowe talks about how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

2$3

DATitle
Calvin Lowe describes his experience in high school and graduating early
Calvin Lowe describes his role as the dean of the graduate school and vice president of research at Hampton University
Transcript
So Northwest High School [Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina] now, now what did you, what, what kind of science did you take at Northwest?$$I took chemistry, biology. I think I took physical science. I think it was the, the first course that they taught. I took a course in physics. It was sort of a, a, you know, pretty low level kind of, I mean they really didn't have somebody that do physics, to teach it. So I think the biology teacher also taught physics and she did a good job kind of introducing the subject, but you really couldn't see, see the inner workings of the subject. You know, you just kind of got the tour.$$Okay. Now what about math and how high did they let--did you take calculus in high school?$$(Laughs) No. (Laughs) I didn't take calculus in high school, it wasn't offered. I actually didn't take trig [trigonometry] in high school either, that wasn't offered. I got through the two courses in algebra, courses in geometry. That, that was as far as I, you got to go in math in, in high school when I was there.$$Okay, okay. Now were there any special teachers, you know, or mentors at, at Northwest?$$Nah. I think, you know, my science teacher, Mrs. Clark, you know, was a uh, an excellent teacher. She taught, taught the biology course and, and as much chemistry or physics as was, as was available. You know, she was a, I think a very good teacher, very um--I guess looking back, I mean I think she was, she was inquisitive. She had the scientific, you know, interest in, in things that that got conveyed the students to even, even though we didn't always, you know, didn't get to see the, the real depth of, especially the chemistry or physics subject; but we got to see that in biology; more, more depth. That was her field, her, her major in college. So that, that teacher I remember. Also I remember, actually her, her husband taught um--what do they call it? Um, I guess its social studies or civics--no, not civics. I forgot what they called it, but anyway it was sort of, sort of world civilization kind of history course. You know, you kind of learned about different civilizations and--$$Like world history.$$Yeah, world history. He was very good at that, and I remember as we were preparing for final exams once he, he challenged the class to, to ask him a question from the, from the book that he didn't know. And so he gave, you know, we could, could open our book and you could go through it and ask whatever question and he knew it all. (Laughs) So I, I remember that af--that afternoon. It was very interesting experience there. Also I had a, I guess, in, in ninth grade I guess, had a really good English, English teacher. She taught sort of English literature I guess and so she talked about the, you know, the into Shakespeare and, you know, some plays. She was well versed in all that stuff and, and as we were learning some, I guess it was maybe English literature--it was not the right name of the subject; but, you know, she talked about some of the ancient Greek plays and she would, she would perform a little bit of it and talk about how, how they would perform on stage, and that was a really, really interesting, interesting subject.$$Okay.$$Good teacher.$$Okay. Okay, so, were you involved in sports in high school at all?$$Played football in high school. I guess I played two years.$$And what did you play? What, what position?$$Offensive guard.$$Okay. Okay, so you, you played for two years?$$Yeah, it was some college AV team one year and then played varsity one year. Actually I left high school one year early, so after my junior year I left and went to [North Carolina] A & T [Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina].$$And went to where?$$Went to A & T.$$A & T, okay.$$To college.$$Alright.$$Yeah.$$Okay. So how, how did that take place?$$Well, there, there were, we were required to have, you know, a certain number of credits courses or credit hours something in high school to graduate and if you took sort of a full load, you know, a full load (laughs), six, six classes, by the time you got to the end of your sophomore year, you were sort of like promoted to be a senior because you could in principle graduate from high school. The only thing that kept you from doing that is that you were required to take four years of English and so if you; if the summer after your sophomore year you went to summer school and you took English, which--basically junior year English, then in what would have been your junior year, you could actually graduate from, from high school. And so that's what I did. Yeah, so--$$Okay.$And then you came back to Hampton [University, Hampton, Virginia].$$Came back to Hampton.$$So what, what happened? What, what was the cause?$$I went into my office one day and, and my secretary said, "Oh, you got, you had a phone call from President [William] Harvey." I said, "Okay." (Laughs) So I called him and, and he told me that he wanted me to consider a position coming back to Hampton as, had a position as dean of the, of the graduate school and vice president for research. So I said well that sounds interesting (laughs), so, so I came to visit and interviewed with him and, and accepted the offer and we moved, moved back.$$Okay, alright. So, so you're like now Dean of the Graduate School and Vice President of Research--$$Um hm.$$--right? Okay. So what, what were some of your activities here at Hampton?$$Well you now as, as VP [vice president] for research, again I was in the role of trying to help the University secure funding. So I spent a lot of time traveling back and forth to Washington. To graduate school you know being dean of the graduate school is, is a nice job because you don't, you dont have any faculty working for you. (Laughs) The faculty work for the other deans really. So, so I spent a, mainly my time was on building the research program. You know Hampton was, was really in the, in the beginning stages of rapid growth in the science area during that time. Dr. Harvey wanted to really build up the science programs. One of the things that he asked me to do was to really look at whether or not we could make a thrust into atmospheric sciences and again, we were looking at that because of NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] Langley [Research Center]. We had a proximity to NASA Langley. It was something that, that they have a very big presence in and so, you know, we started to explore that and, and (laughs) it was interesting we were, we were able to attract two of their like really world-class scientists to come to Hampton. They, they left, they were actually retired from, from the government, and they became faculty members here at Hampton; they are still here. They, they came to Hampton and they built a really fantastic atmospheric sciences program here at Hampton.$$Who, who are they?$$Jim Russell and Pat McCormick, and Patrick McCormick. So you know they, they were, they were, I guess they were both branch heads at, at NASA. So they were you know up in the leadership of, of the branches that did atmospheric sciences and, and satellite projects and so they have lots of you know really great connections into the field and into people and, and they were, they were exactly the right two folks to capture to come to Hampton. So we created a little, a few bad feelings at Langley (laughs) when we did that. I know we, we beat out a couple of, couple of places like Virginia Tech [Blacksburg, Virginia] and the College of William and Mary [Williamsburg, Virginia] to, to capture these guys and bring them here to Hampton. And you know they are just, just a bang up job in terms of bringing resources and building an atmospheric science program that's, that's you know that's world-class, well-known. You know when you start asking about places that, that places that will do atmospheric science research, Hampton is one of those places that you actually talk about now.$$Okay. Did, did taking on the atmospheric science program require like uh much facility build out or construction?$$Not, not a whole lot, because we were, we were really looking at trying to put into place the, the sort of connection into a research community and, and if you look at atmospheric sciences I mean there are, there are you know you get these, these satellite programs to go up. These satellites are designed to study various parts of the atmosphere and then there is a science team just built around the satellite. The satellites are basically built by, you know, one of the aerospace companies, launched by NASA, run by NASA you know and, and the, the scientists are really users so the data that comes back down the, down the pipe so to speak. So McCormick and Russell gave us a, an entree into that, to that kind of science and the uh, the infrastructure for, for you know getting data. I mean all that stuff is sort of part of NASA, part of the mission of NASA.$$Okay, alright. So, okay, so you were back here at Hampton until 2000. So that's five years--$$Um hm.$$--right?$$Right. Remember I told you about it, (laughs) about every five, six, seven years. (Laughs)