In memoriam: Distinguished Alumnus Bill Lowrie (1943-2022)

Bill Lowrie at Old Koffolt

Alumnus William (Bill) G. Lowrie passed away on October 8 at the age of 78.

A graduate of Riverside High School in Painesville, Ohio, Lowrie arrived at The Ohio State University in 1961 to study chemical engineering. Immediately after graduation in June 1966, he joined Standard Oil (renamed Amoco Corporation) as an engineer. While working in New Orleans, he met and subsequently married his wife and life partner, Ernestine (Ernie) in 1969.  

In 1979, Lowrie was transferred to Chicago and began his ascent through levels of corporate management to become president of Amoco Corporation until 1998 when the company merged with British Petroleum. He then served as deputy CEO of BP Amoco in London until his retirement in 1999.

Bill and Ernie Lowrie have been Ohio State fans, donors and volunteers since his earliest days as an Ohio State alumnus. His record of university service spanned decades. He provided leadership on a variety of Ohio State committees in addition to generous financial contributions. He chaired the National Committee for New Koffolt Laboratories, served on the department of chemical engineering's Industrial Advisory Board, the College of Engineering's Dean’s Advisory Council, and the university’s Foundation Board of Directors, among other roles.

Bill and Ernestine Lowrie
Bill and Ernestine Lowrie

His many contributions to his alma mater have been recognized with the College of Engineering’s Texnikoi Outstanding Alumnus Award, Distinguished Alumnus Award, Benjamin G. Lamme Meritorious Achievement Medal and Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership. Lowrie is the only engineering alumnus to receive all four awards.

In 2005, the university recognized his years of dedicated service as chair and volunteer to the Foundation Board with the Everett D. Reese Medal. In 2008, Lowrie received the Alumni Medalist Award, the highest honor accorded by the Ohio State University Alumni Association. And in recognition of his exemplary involvement and personal investment in fundraising at Ohio State, Lowrie earned the university’s 2017 John B. Gerlach, Sr. Development Volunteer Award.

Over time, as the Lowries saw their continued gifts to Ohio State bear fruit, they began to consider how they might make further impact. In 2009, they made a transformative financial commitment to support the construction of the new and critically-needed Koffolt Laboratories, which became a joint project with Chemistry to create the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building (CBEC). The funds from Lowrie's gift, the largest gift made towards the construction of CBEC, also created the H.C. “Slip” Slider Professorship and the enhancement of other education and research initiatives.

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Lowrie announces his decision to help fund the building of new Koffolt Laboratories

At the time he made the gift, Lowrie had said, "At this stage of my life, I find myself in a position where I can help and give back in a meaningful way. I wanted to move on it now, regardless of what is going on in the economy, so that I could see it happen and partially repay the university and the Department of Chemical Engineering for the huge impact they have had on my life and the lives of so many others."

In a tribute to Joe Koffolt, one of many Ohio State chemical engineering professors whom Lowrie admired and emulated throughout his life and career, Lowrie insisted that the building itself retain the Koffolt name. In recognition of the gift, the Ohio State University Board of Trustees thus approved the naming of the department itself as the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. This made the chemical engineering department the first named department in the country.

In 2019, a gift from the Lowries established a second professorship—this time in honor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor and Chair Umit Ozkan. The professorship provides additional support for an outstanding faculty member and affords the department a powerful recruiting tool.

A memorial service will be held at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, November 4, at Schoedinger Northwest, 1740 Zollinger Road in Columbus, where a reception will follow. To access the obituary written by his family.

Lowrie on plant trip as a student
Bill Lowrie (second from right) on a plant trip as a chemical engineering student at The Ohio State University.
Category: Alumni of Note