Alumnus and World Mining Expert Donates $4.5M to UA
The money will go toward a student-athlete practice facility and a new program in mining and geological engineering.

Johnny Cruz
Jan. 28, 2008

University of Arizona alumni J. David and Edith Lowell have donated $4.5 million to Arizona Athletics and the College of Engineering.

The Lowells donated $2.5 million in capital funding toward ongoing construction of the UA basketball/volleyball practice facility northeast of McKale Memorial Center. A separate $2.06 million gift will create the David Lowell Professional Program in Mineral Resources in the department of mining and geological engineering.

Scheduled for completion in October, the $14 million, 20,000-square-foot athletics facility is part of a long-term expansion of the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center and a new gymnastics training facility.

“Coach Lute Olson called me and said this practice facility was dear to his heart and that this gift had put it over the fence to make it possible,” said David Lowell, who played for the 1945 UA football team. His wife, Edith, was a 1948 UA letterwoman in field hockey and women’s intramural sports.

“We are deeply grateful for the Lowells’ generosity. Enhancing our training facilities is essential to recruiting top-level student-athletes and coaches,” said UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood.

The athletics department also will create a memorial to honor Lowell’s older brother, William “Bill” Lowell, and fellow teammates from the 1942 UA football team who served in World War II. Bill served in the U.S. Marine Corps and died during the battle of Iwo Jima, a monthlong conflict that killed more than 6,800 Americans.

“It’s especially gratifying that two people from the UA family have decided to use this opportunity to memorialize the many sacrifices our student-athletes made during the war,” Livengood said.

The UA didn’t field a football team in 1943 and 1944. David Lowell played one season, for the 1945 squad that went 5-0.

“We had a good team considering the circumstances. The players, coaching staff and schedule were thrown together in a couple months after the war ended,” Lowell said. He participated in spring practice the next year, but was ultimately persuaded by the dean of the mines college to concentrate on his studies.

Today he is considered one of the world’s leading experts in mining exploration, having discovered more copper ore than any other person in history. He was inducted into the American Mining Hall of Fame in 2002.

Lowell received a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from the UA in 1949 and a master’s degree in geology from Stanford University in 1957. He obtained a professional engineer degree from the UA in 1959. He also received honorary doctorates from Universidad Nacional de San Marcos in Peru in 1998 and the UA in 2000.

At age 79, Lowell remains active in the mining industry. With rapid changes in technology, computer automation and robotics, Lowell and UA faculty recognized the need to help mining executives stay competitive globally. The Lowell Professional Program in Mineral Resources will be a distance-based master’s program that combines engineering and management courses.

“In addition to covering cutting-edge research in the field, the program will include elements of technical management,” said Mary Poulton, head of the mining and geological engineering department. “We are able to rethink our coursework and how we offer it to address specific industry needs.”

The curriculum will be flexible to enable working professionals to develop academic programs that meet their career objectives and changing industry demands. Most coursework will be offered online via live, two-way video lectures as well as on-demand content, Poulton said.

Additional short courses will allow students to complete on-campus instruction in just a few weeks. A portion of the program will be project-based research on topics relevant to the student’s employer.

“This endowment provides the resources to develop a significant competitive edge in recruiting top executives to study international mining at the UA,” said Thomas Peterson, dean of the College of Engineering.

In 2000, the Lowells donated $1.9 million to the UA College of Science to endow the Lowell Program in Economic Geology, a postgraduate education and training program for geologists in the mineral industry.

Lowell expects the two disciplines will find ways to work collaboratively. The industry must strike a balance between addressing environmental sensitivities and meeting society’s growing demand for ore-dependent technologies such as computers and electronics.

“We’re satisfied that this is going to be a good thing for a lot of people in the future,” Lowell said. “Edith and I believe this is a dynamic philanthropic investment. Money doesn’t accomplish anything if it’s sitting in a bank.”

Lowell began his career as a mining engineer with Asarco in Mexico. In 1961, he became an independent consultant and, between 1961 and 1990, worked for 110 companies in 26 countries. He discovered eight major mineral deposits worldwide, including the Kalamazoo ore body at San Manuel. He also has located major ore bodies in Chile, Peru and the Philippines. He has won numerous awards from the mining industry and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

He and Edith married in 1948. She received two degrees from the UA, a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 1948 and a master’s degree in Spanish in 1950. She is a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

The Lowells’ gift to athletics is the third largest in its history, behind $6.5 million to the Eddie Lynch Pavillion and former UA basketball star Richard Jefferson’s $3.5 million pledge last summer.


Resources for the media

Scott Mackenzie

Arizona Athletics