A message from The College of Wooster Board of Trustees

April 12, 2021   /  

The following message was sent April 12, 2021, to The College of Wooster community from the Board of Trustees:

Dear Members of the College of Wooster Community,

We write to share steps that the Board of Trustees is taking to respond to concerns raised regarding former College President Howard Lowry.

Howard Lowry, from the class of 1923, was a student, a professor, and ultimately President at the College of Wooster, serving in that role from 1944 until his death in 1967. President Lowry created many of the College’s most important features, including the Independent Study. He very significantly advanced the College’s academic and student life, as well as its internationality and diversity. Because of his major impact, there are many places where his leadership is honored at the College, including Lowry Center, a named professorship, as well as scholarships, funds and more. President Lowry’s work at Wooster as well as other aspects of his life are documented in College history, including in Trustee Emeritus Jerrold Footlick’s ’56 2015 book, An Adventure in Education: The College of Wooster from Howard Lowry to the Twenty-First Century.

Several alumni of the College have raised concerns regarding President Lowry’s behavior. Specific concerns were brought forth by two individuals, who reported that he pursued romantic relationships with recent graduates in ways that were unwelcome, very persistent, and harmful. The matters reported do not include physical or sexual assault. Most recently, these concerns were raised in response to the College’s announcement of the intention to keep the Lowry name on the student center after a major renovation is completed.

The concerns have been reported to the board, and the board takes them very seriously. While the information we have is limited at this time, we stand strongly against any form of harassment, and are committed to learning more about what took place, without prejudgment. We owe it to the alumni who have raised these concerns, and any other alumni who have relevant information but have not yet come forward, to welcome, receive, and assess the information they provide us with an open mind. At the same time, we owe it to the memory of President Lowry and those members of the College community who knew and respected him not to rush to judgment, but to base any conclusions we reach and decisions we make on a fair evaluation of the information we obtain. As we review the information available to us, we also will attempt to identify ways to resolve the concerns that have been raised that are respectful to all involved.

These are the board’s next steps.

  • The board will engage an independent expert or firm to assist us in looking into the matters that have been raised, to help us achieve a better understanding of the scope of what took place while preserving the privacy of those who may wish to speak in confidence. The board will be reviewing all concerns submitted and will approach its work with the confidentiality of all individuals as a top priority.
  • The board will appoint a group of trustees to work with the independent expert or firm, oversee the investigation, and advise the full board concerning appropriate action to take in light of the information learned.
  • The board will keep the College community informed as this process moves forward and will invite input from anyone who has relevant information as well as from the community as a whole. We will update the community with details on this process and opportunities for input by early June.
  • Ultimately, based on its assessment of the information obtained, the board will decide what actions to take to best serve the College and our mission.
  • The board’s decision and any accompanying plans for action will be reported to the College community.

As we consider this matter, the board is also aware that there are likely other aspects of the College’s history that we should more fully understand. While our first goal at this time is to understand and address the issues surrounding President Lowry’s actions, we will also consider what additional efforts we should undertake, particularly to understand the histories of matters related to equity.

The board is establishing a process to reach out for ideas, experiences and input from the College of Wooster community. If you wish to share something now, in advance of this formal process, you are welcome to do so by sending an email to our dedicated address inquiry@wooster.edu or, if you prefer, by leaving a voicemail at 330-263-2111. All messages will be shared with the group of trustees overseeing this matter.

We know that this is difficult information to receive, but feel it is our duty to be transparent with the Wooster community as we work to address these important issues in a way that serves our mission and reflects our values.

Sincerely,

Donald R. Frederico, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Marianne Sprague, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees