Howard R. Lowe Vertebrate Paleontology Endowment

Feb 9, 1979 | Excellence Funds & Program Support

Howard R. Lowe attended UT Austin from 1940 to 1943, completing 122 hours toward a degree in aeronautical engineering. He was commissioned by the University’s first NROTC class as an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve in February 1944. Lowe served in the European and Asiatic-Pacific combat zones during World War II, and completed active duty in January 1946 as a Lieutenant. From 1955-1957, he commanded a Naval Reserve Surface Division and served in the Naval Reserve until 1958. His dedication to the Naval service continues. In 2009, Lowe donated his personal collection of approximately 900 Naval and Military history books to the NROTC Unit at UT Austin to honor the Classes of 1943-44. A plaque is prominently displayed, which names the library, The World War II Memorial Library.

Lowe recalls a voyage he made several months after the war ended. Lowe’s ship was sent on a mission to collect 400 Japanese holdouts on the east coast of Luzon. He remembers, “I saw a smoking volcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, and my curiosity was aroused. I wanted to know more about it.” On his return to UT Austin in January 1946, he decided to take a freshman course in geology under Dr. John A. Wilson. This only whetted his appetite for geology. Consequently, he never finished his engineering degree, instead earned a BS in geology in June 1948.

As a licensed professional engineer and certified petroleum geologist, he has been actively engaged in almost every phase of oil and gas exploration and exploitation: geological, land, drilling, production, secondary recovery, reservoir, and property appraisals. Lowe’s background and experience in oil and gas financing includes all phases of upstream operations, and dates back to 1950. He possesses a wide breadth of expertise, both domestically and internationally, in negotiating drilling ventures, farm-outs, oil and gas reserve purchases, and contracts for services.

During his long career, he has worked in many parts of the world. Domestically, his activities covered most of the major oil and gas producing regions in the United States, concentrating mainly in the Rocky Mountain Regions of the U.S. and Canada. Internationally, his professional resume includes Russia, Central Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and the South American countries of Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. He is especially proud of two of his innovations. He and his staff designed and constructed the first salt cavern ever dissolved for the storage of natural gas in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1960. Based on a “brainstorm” he had, he and his staff also developed a computerized data system for the oil industry in 1962. The software system was successfully installed in Western Canada. Within the next two years the system was installed in Algeria and Peru.

Lowe joined the Society of Petroleum Engineers in 1952. He was elected a national director (1965 to 1969), selected as one of its Engineers of Distinction (1972), and belongs to its Legion of Honor. He is a life member of the AAPG (having first joined in 1949). He was elected director of the U.S. Navy League in 1980. From 1980-88, he was a member of the Geology Foundation Advisory Council. His association with UT Austin also includes memberships on the Chancellors Council and Littlefield Society. Lowe is a member of the Challenger Council, Montana Tech, where he was a guest lecturer in the early 1980s. He established a fund in 1978 which awards a bonus annually to the outstanding petroleum engineering faculty member.

Lowe resides in Houston with his wife Lillian. Their retirement years are spent staying in touch with two sons and four daughters, and their offspring – 16 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. He remarks, “You’d think I could have done better, but I have only one offspring in geology.” Shawn Walker, a great grandson, is a junior in geology at Northern Colorado University and plans to enter the oil industry on graduation.

Lowe established his endowment in honor of Dr. Wilson, whose first-year geology course was his first exposure to the subject. He credits Wilson for his addiction to geology. Pursuant to this first encounter, Wilson and Lowe, both former Second World War Naval officers, became very close friends. On selling his small oil company, Lowe decided to make a monetary contribution to the UT Geology Department.

“I am a great believer in the adage, if you take out of the pot, you put back in,” he states, citing John A. Jackson as an “excellent example” of this principle. When deciding where his gift could do the most good for the geology school, he did not have to look far. As he tells it, “I called Jack (Wilson), and said – ‘Everybody gives to petroleum geology…what should I do?’” Wilson’s response was – “Give it to me!” Hence, the endowment recognizes Wilson’s contribution to geological education, and vertebrate paleontology, in particular. The endowment supports the ever increasing cost of student field work in vertebrate paleontology.

In 1981, Lowe was also instrumental in funding the S.E. Clabaugh Fund in Hard-rock Geology, which supports faculty and scientists who specialize in the study of igneous and metamorphic rock. “I met Clabaugh when I took his Sedimentary Petrology course in the first semester that he taught it,” he recalls, “and being one of the younger professors, he was great at explaining things and showed more patience than any one when working with us on the microscopes.” In addition to being a very good teacher, he remembers that Clabaugh had a “subtle” sense of humor. Now renamed the Stephen E. and Patricia S. Clabaugh Fund in Geology Research, Lowe developed a deep friendship with the couple after he graduated.

He hopes his philanthropy will benefit the Jackson School and UT Austin communities. Lowe is clear: “Education is one of the best ways to solve this country’s problems as well as the world’s.”

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