Philanthropists give to charitable causes for a variety of reasons, such as to honor the memory of a loved one or out of gratitude. Steven R. Lowy gives to McKelvey School of Engineering motivated by the opportunity to provide scholarships to deserving students so that they can achieve the same outstanding education he received as an undergraduate and graduate student.
Lowy, who earned a bachelor's degree in 1968 and a master's degree in 1970 from Washington University School of Engineering, both in chemical engineering, gave a gift that will provide 31 additional scholarships to the Washington University Scholars in Engineering Program. Previously, Lowy had established three endowed scholarships and four annual scholarships, bringing the total number of Lowy scholarships to an unprecedented 38 scholarships each year.
The gift is inspired by the $30 million McKelvey Engineering Challenge, which matches all contributions to the McKelvey School of Engineering made through June 30, 2022. Gifts of endowed scholarships earn a two-to-one match.
"It's a great program that dramatically changes lives by making it possible for students from low-to-moderate income families to get an outstanding education at Washington University McKelvey School of Engineering that they could not afford without a Lowy scholarship," he said. "I enjoy giving to this so much more than any other charity where you don't really know what your money goes to. I get much more satisfaction out of this program."
Lowy, who is chairman of Envision LLC, a St. Louis-based IT firm that provides staffing to Fortune 500 companies, began contributing to the scholarship program in the 1970s, when he worked for his family's wholesale carpet business. Since then, 79 students have benefited from his generosity.
"It's been really rewarding to get to know the recipients," he said. "Some of them I've stayed in contact with for a long time. I get a lot of satisfaction out of following their careers."
One of the students who received a Lowy scholarship was Ceren Yalaz, who earned a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering in 2012 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, where she also earned a PhD. She said receiving the scholarship made it possible for her to attend WashU and to study biomedical engineering, her dream major.
"Having financial security meant an immense peace of mind, and I was able to focus on my studies and research while experiencing the campus life," she said. "Being fortunate enough to be a Lowy Scholar, I felt responsible to help work toward a more inclusive campus. As a group of students from the Student Union, we initiated WU/FUSED (Washington University for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity) to improve admissions access and awareness on socioeconomic diversity. I also hope to contribute towards scholarships in the future."
Richard Colvin, who earned a bachelor's degree in computer science in 2002 and is cofounder and coinventor of NoWait, now Yelp Waitlist, said the relatively new Department of Biomedical Engineering drew him to WashU.
"While my primary focus was engineering, I enjoyed the breadth of electives that I found in other areas of the university, such as philosophy and business," said Colvin, who is now a software engineer for Yelp. "After starting classes, I decided somewhat quickly to pursue a computer science major and robotics minor. The Department of Computer Science was great preparation for my current role as a software engineer."
Colvin said he was confident that WashU was the best university for him, and that scholarship support was critical for his ability to attend.
"Even with WashU's scholarship support, attendance still required sizable loans to make up the difference," he said. "Steve Lowy's scholarship support made it financially feasible for me to make the best choice."
The majority of Lowy scholarship recipients work in information technology, with many working as software engineers or developers at large technology companies, system process engineers, or corporate executives or managers. Others are physicians, university professors, project managers and business analysts.
Lowy remains very involved with the university through the Eliot Society and serving as chairman of its Patron Committee for the past three years. He also served on the executive committee of his undergraduate class's 50th reunion in 2018. He received the McKelvey Engineering Alumni Achievement Award in 2018.