August 22, 2005: Headlines: Staff: History: Outward Bound: Chicago Tribune: James Lowry taught Outward Bound to Peace Corps volunteers in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

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By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Friday, August 26, 2005 - 8:35 am: Edit Post

James Lowry taught Outward Bound to Peace Corps volunteers in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

James Lowry taught Outward Bound to Peace Corps volunteers in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

Lowry worked for Shriver, who founded the Peace Corps, using Outward Bound self-esteem-and-leadership-building programs to train the organization's first recruits in Puerto Rico.

James Lowry taught Outward Bound to Peace Corps volunteers in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

Well-respected life dedicated to helping the disadvantaged

Published August 22, 2005

Caption: Rappeling down Rio Abajo during Outward Bound training in Arecibo. Photo: Steve Wells from the Peace Corps Writers web site

James Lowry has led a Forest Gump-type of life--in that the famous and noteworthy have crossed the 66-year-old's path regularly.

A star football, basketball and baseball player at Francis W. Parker High School, a prestigious North Side private school that he attended on scholarship, this son of two Chicago postal workers counts among his mentors R. Sargent Shriver, Robert Kennedy and Mayor Richard J. Daley.

Lowry worked for Shriver, who founded the Peace Corps, using Outward Bound self-esteem-and-leadership-building programs to train the organization's first recruits in Puerto Rico.

Then, Kennedy recruited Lowry to work in his pilot Bedford-Stuyvesant inner-city economic development program in New York City. Later, Mayor Richard J. Daley asked Lowry, then a McKinsey Co. management consultant, to consolidate Chicago's human service agencies, only to discover McKinsey wasn't that interested. So Daley urged Lowry to start his own firm.

Surprisingly, these eyebrow-raising experiences aren't at the top of Lowry's list of life-altering events. The biggest was his participation in a fifth-year, study-abroad scholarship program in 1961 that took him to the Kivukoni College off the coast of Tanzania. There he taught political science to future leaders of the country.

"It was culture shock to come from Grinnell [College] in the middle of Iowa, to be living on $200 for the entire year in another part of the world," recounted Lowry. "I had to learn about different cultures, different people.

"As a result, to this day I never go into a situation thinking that I have all of the answers. I always go in listening for all of the other answers."

Today, Lowry uses these highly attuned listening skills as a senior vice president at the Boston Consulting Group, where he heads its global diversity practice.

Q. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

A. I wanted to be a professional athlete. But in college I became a realist on my professional athletic potential and applied to law school. After going overseas, I envisioned a foreign service career. Bobby Kennedy changed my mind, when he asked me to go to Bedford-Stuyvesant.

That's where I realized if you're going to effect societal change, you have to work through free enterprise, with the support of the private sector, to create wealth.

Q. At what point in your working life did what you're doing now become your goal?

A. Thirty-five years ago I went into consulting to accrue as many skills as possible to effect change for disadvantaged people. I've been using the skills that I learned ever since to do exactly that.

Q. Did anyone give you a big break or mentor you?

A. I've had many mentors, starting with my brother, Bill, now 71, a vice president at the MacArthur Foundation.

He was a jock, wanted to play more ball and transferred to Francis W. Parker (from the University of Chicago Lab School). That's how I started there, as well, in the 8th grade. He broke the barriers for me.

Imagine in the 1950s what it was like to attend a school like Parker that embraced diversity before the term was used. After going there, I felt I could conquer any mountain. It was the best five years of my life.

Q. What previous experience best prepared you for what you're doing now?

A. Unquestionably it was teaching Outward Bound to Peace Corps volunteers in Puerto Rico.

I was a good athlete, bigger and faster than most guys. But if I'd had Outward Bound, I would have been an All-American in college. It would have forced me to have gone the extra 20 percent to 30 percent.

As a result of taking that course and then teaching it, there's never a time that I don't think I can accomplish anything that I put on the table. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, because I'll take on too many things in a certain amount of time. But when I sit down to write, I have the utmost confidence I'm going to succeed.

Q. How has your personal life fared as you've moved up the ladder?

A. I met my current wife, Doris Davenport Lowry, when she headed up Jesse Jackson's trade group, the Rainbow/PUSH Trade Bureau.

She was doing some procurement work with the University of Chicago. Someone there suggested that the program might be enhanced if she worked with me. So she came to see me and gave me a contract. We've been married for five years; now we have a contract for life.

Q. What's the best advice anyone's ever given you?

A. When I was in Tanzania, and the British were still in control, regularly I was asked by them, "Why do Americans want to be liked?" Invariably, they would add, "All we want to be is to be respected."

That became my motto. I like being liked. I like being appreciated. But to be respected became my goal.

- - -

Step by step

2005: Senior vice president, The Boston Consulting Group, Chicago.

2000-05: Vice president, The Boston Consulting Group, Chicago

1987-92: Adjunct instructor of management, Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University

1985-88: Part-time co-host, "The Minority Report," WGN-TV

1975-2000: President and chief executive, James H. Lowry & Associates, Chicago

1968-75: Consultant, McKinsey & Co., Chicago; senior associate, New York

1967-68: Program officer and assistant to the president, Bedford-Stuyvesant Corp., New York City

1965-67: Associate director, U.S. Peace Corps, Lima, Peru, and consultant to U.S. Peace Corps training division

1965: Master's degree in public and international affairs, University of Pittsburgh

1962: Training officer, U.S. Peace Corps, Arecibo, Puerto Rico

1961: Bachelor's degree in government, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa

1961: Tutor, Kuvukoni College, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

1960-61: On-campus laundry service

1960-61: Summer janitor, Chicago Housing Authority's Midway Gardens

1957-60: Helper to Pepsi-Cola driver

When this story was posted in August 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Chicago Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Staff; History; Outward Bound


By Masudi Bwire ( on Friday, April 17, 2009 - 2:31 pm: Edit Post

Iam delighted to read James Lowry's story but more importantly the fact that had been a Lecturer at the most respectable Institution in Tanzania,the Kivukoni College.This is great.

Masudi Bwire


By Chuck Kegley ( on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 10:11 pm: Edit Post

I was the training director for PC Ecuador 1 held in Barranquitas, PR in the summer of 1962. Sarge Shriver visited the camp and Lyndon Johnson gave the graduation speech. Great memories of a great time. Would you like some reminiscences?

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