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Admirables: Nancy Lowry (Part 2)

Overcoming Adversity

The couple moved to Northampton in 1966 for a teaching position that Tom secured with Smith College. For four years Nancy raised her three kids, postdoc’ed at Amherst College, organized a water collection and analysis project around the first Earth Day, and taught a few classes at Smith College before receiving an offer for a permanent faculty position with a new school in Amherst, MA called Hampshire College.

“Hampshire hired me because I had a hand written inquiry out and they didn’t have a chemist. They offered me less then the minimum pay, this was in June before the school opened that Fall. Hampshire was quite blind on the subject of women but they were progressive on other aspects of education but the sexism persisted for many years.”

Nancy at the First Girls Day in the Lab in 1985

While Nancy was in graduate school, she was able to thrive despite the open sexism because she “just didn’t look at it. Sometimes you just have to do your work and you don’t look left to right and you don’t notice things that sometimes you would notice otherwise. This was all very new to me; it had occurred to me that I might go to graduate school.” But at Hampshire the problem was pervasive, visible and needed to be dealt with.

Much like other professional environments in the 70’s, the sexism was apparent in the pay structure at Hampshire. In addition, sexist remarks by male colleagues were openly made in staff meetings and one-on-one encounters. The problem was exceptionally difficult in the School of Natural Sciences.

Nancy's Trusty Assistant for Girls Day in the Lab

After the first few years, as more women were hired in NS, female science facultyand some male colleagues recognized that the problem needed to be dealth with, “So that’s when we formed the women in science programand got together every week. We hashed out what was going on at school meetings, and talked about power plays.” Nancy reflected that it was important to have the discussions in order to process the situation and understand how to deal with feelings of anger and confusion.

After processing through things the group was ready to move to action. “The first things we came up with, we ran two years of women in science lectures. Then we started girls day in the lab, and the next year we added a day in the lab for inner city kids.” I had volunteered with Nancy for both Girls Day in the Lab and Day in the Lab when I was at Hampshire. It was wonderful to create a fun and engaging learning environment for local middle school students that exposed them to the wonders of science.

Girls Day in the Lab Cake - Notice the cartoon artwork, it is by Nancy Lowry

Nancy flourished in her career at Hampshire College. She served as the Dean of Natural Sciences from 1989-1993 and Dean of Advising from 2002-2003. In addition, she provided valuable mentorship to countless students. I for one am lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her. Nancy let me be me and had an uncanny ability to provide just the right amount of support so that I could thrive independently.


Dover has all kinds of adventures on the Sauntering Dog!

Nancy retired from Hampshire College in 2008. Continually seeking to find fulfillment and make us of her gifts, Nancy now spends her time writing a blog called Sauntering Dog, which features comments on life , her grandchildren, and stories about her Golden Retriever, Dover. In search of community, she also volunteers at a local nursing home with Dover, a therapy dog. Nancy enjoys spending time with her husband Tom, their three children and grandchildren, and friends. In addition, she’s a besotted dog person, a haphazard gardener, an avid reader, and life-long-learner.

Values: Everybody is of value; Women’s Rights, Equality, & Civil Rights; The importance of Community and the role everyone plays in that community.

Mantra: Pay attention! Listen carefully, then respond. Do what you enjoy doing. Speak with action.

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