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A Tribute to the Lowrys

Friends and colleagues reflect on the Lowry's leadership

Randy and Rhonda Lowry smiling on stage

Photos by Kristi Jones

Lipscomb Now asked friends and colleagues of President L. Randolph Lowry and Presidential Spouse Rhonda Lowry to comment on their impact on the Lipscomb community during his tenure. Read on to see how the Lowrys have led Lipscomb to renew and stoke five spirits of Lipscomb, while also impacting the lives of Bisons, Nashvillians and friends since 2005.

President Lowry speaks at Baccalaureate

A spirit of faith leads to a future grounded in spirituality


Shirley V. Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), based in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Lowry is a highly effective and strategic leader, generous with sharing his wisdom and expertise through his service on the CCCU Board of Directors for the past five years. He is a gifted problem-solver, able to navigate and explore the myriad of possible answers in order to secure the best result. He has been a courageous contributor to the broader Christian higher education community at a pivotal moment, as Christian colleges and universities face new challenges and uncharted territory.

Student Voice:  Savannah Royston, (’21), Music graduate
Savannah Royston

I am not a notable person… I am likely… the last to speak up. However, I found this was not the case during my Spiritual Formation class with Mrs. Lowry—or any of my interactions with her, for that matter. Thoughtful and observant, she noticed me and took a genuine interest in my college journey. As the class continued and I later became a member of the Presidential Ambassadors Council, she increasingly challenged me to go deeper in both my personal walk with the Father and in my education at Lipscomb.

Considering how many wonderful people fill her life, her sincere interest in me has been truly special. Mrs. Lowry is a woman that I admire, not just for her tireless dedication to Lipscomb and her responsibilities as the Presidential Spouse. I admire her for the deep love that abounds in her heart and how she shares that love with everyone she encounters. She has a calming wisdom and God-filled intelligence that she uses to challenge and empower others in their own faith journeys, yet all with a graceful sincerity.                                           


Hilton Dean, Lipscomb University Board of Trustees, Former Chair (2003-2011)

President Lowry has always made himself and his university available to assist, encourage and stand with our (Church of Christ) institutions that are having hard times…. Randy and Rhonda, your energy, your example, your influence has expanded our horizon and has broadened our vision. And you have made us better.


John deSteiguer, President, Oklahoma Christian University

To say that the Lowrys have worked tirelessly since arriving in Nashville 16 years ago seems almost trite. They have worked so hard to bring about transformational change – for the better -- to ensure that Lipscomb endures and thrives in an ever changing and challenging world. All the while keeping Lipscomb centered on Christ, ultimately the most important aspect of their work.


Neika Stephens, Lipscomb Trustee, Fellow Stephens Christian Trust Board Member

Neika Stephens

Excellence. There are dozens of superlatives to define Rhonda Lowry.  Each is framed by the word “excellence.” It may be entertaining international celebrities, with days spent in preparation for their visit.  For those guests, the occasion will be memorable because it will be excellent. It is just as likely to be the friend of a friend of a friend who needs a place to stay overnight. That person will be graciously received. And their stay will be cocooned in excellence. It may be a questioning student in Rhonda’s spiritual formation class.  Their heart will be heard and their questions addressed with deeply caring excellence.
No leader is too high, no human too small, to receive the very best from Rhonda Lowry. When a student has a threatening injury, Rhonda is often the first one there - either in the patient’s hospital room or at the parents’ side. When the governor comes to dinner, he is treated with the same dignity and refinement as the incoming freshman. Rhonda is a role model for all who truly want to follow the example of living like Jesus.  


Landon Saunders, President, Heartbeat Inc.

Rhonda truly has special gifts, but what animates and makes all those gifts work, is love… Through all these years, she has reinforced that our work really matters... Her love is real. It is who she is... The university has been imbued with that love, and that unbounded love glows in the very ground of this campus, in the buildings, the classrooms and the lives of professors and so many students.

President Lowry teaching a class

A spirit of inquiry leads to a future fueled by confidence


Claude Pressnell, President of Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA)

Claud Pressnell

Randy Lowry has done a remarkable job leading Lipscomb over the past sixteen years. His guidance has made Lipscomb one of the most responsive and innovative campuses in Tennessee.  As a result, enrollment has grown over 90% during Lowry's tenure and the campus programs are in high demand by various government and business entities. His impact will be forever known in the state of Tennessee. Dr. Lowry provided collaborative leadership among the state and national higher education community.  I am indebted for his service as the chairman of TICUA, where he provided skilled guidance to the association equipping us to provide a unified voice on key policy issues at the state and national levels.

Lipscomb Retrospective:

“I want my days to be filled with adventure. That’s what creativity is about, showing up and being fully present. How exciting that our students can come be a part of that! We are a family. The fact that this building will be cared for by people of faith just makes the story bigger. We aren't here to clean up the Sound Emporium - Lipscomb is coming to serve the community with an endless reserve of love and dreams.”

Amy Grant, Christian music icon and hostess of Lipscomb’s annual Lighting of the Green for 16 years, at the ceremony announcing the gifting of the Sound Emporium Studio to Lipscomb

Student Voice: Zuriel Godinez, (’20), MBA Management graduate
Zuriel Godinez

My junior year I was nominated to become part of the presidential ambassador’s council (PAC). Through PAC and Dr. Lowry, I was able to meet extraordinary business and community leaders such as Donald Miller, Steve Turner and Martha Ingram. My senior year, I took a bible class with Mrs. Lowry and I really enjoyed talking about my faith and aspirations with her. 

When I sat down with Dr. Lowry to tell him my story, he was very understanding of the situation in which I grew up: as a first generation Latino college student. He challenged me to pray and figure out my real “why” for wanting an MBA… and if I could answer my “why” to God, everything would work out. 

Dr. Lowry took a chance on me, and in December of 2020 I graduated with my Master of Business Administration. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that Dr. Lowry and Lipscomb University as an institution have given me. 

Joey V. Barnett, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vice Chair Pharmacology, Professor of Pharmacology, Medicine, Pediatrics, and Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology, Director of the Office of Medical Student Research, Assistant Dean of Physician-Researcher Training

Our partnership with Lipscomb College of Pharmacy has provided opportunities for faculty and students at both institutions to benefit. Collaborative teaching and research efforts have strengthened both programs. Our innovative PharmD, PhD program has attracted national attention as a creative solution to meet the need for training biomedical scientists who bring a pharmacy perspective to research teams. I look forward to continuing to work together.


Jim Thomas, Former Special Assistant to the President (2005-2016), Professor of Communication

Jim Thomas

Looking back over my time with President Lowry and his work with the faculty, the strong beginning was when he established a financial incentive at the university to fund faculty projects they thought needed to be implemented. Due to his challenge, one faculty member (Jeff McCormack) submitted a proposal stating that Lipscomb should develop a pharmacy program. It was a most ambitious program. I still remember discussing the proposal with President Lowry.  He had such a gleam in his eye, that I knew it was a proposal we would implement.

From the vision of President Lowry and the encouragement of the faculty, that one proposal funded by President Lowry stimulated a host of other science projects:  continued development of the Lipscomb nursing program, the pharmacy program, the pharmacy research studies, the physician assistant program, to name a few.


David Fleer, Lipscomb University, Director of the Center for Christianity and Scholarship and the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars' Conference, Professor of Homiletics

Rhonda Lowry’s exemplary contributions to the Christian Scholars’ Conference include her leadership in all aspects of the CSC board, participation on dozens of panels, and wise counsel in every planning detail. Rhonda Lowry’s imprint is seen at every level of CSC activity.
With her exquisite gift of hospitality, she sets the table and then takes her seat in the company of the greatest thinkers, writers and scholars of the last century. In every occasion Rhonda asks the best questions of the brightest minds. Which, in itself, is the mark of a great thinker and the beginning of memorable dialogue. Rhonda brings out the best in her distinguished guests, all the while continuing her education to the benefit of all her guests.

Lowry speaking with a group of students

A spirit of community leads to a future embracing diversity


Greg Sterling, Dean, Yale University Divinity School

It is simply not the same university where I brought my daughter. It is different, and you have done this while not simply maintaining Lipscomb’s commitment to Christianity, but by deepening and expanding it… You’ve reached out to people across a broad spectrum and touched thousands of lives.


Lipscomb Retrospective:

Fred D. Gray

Fred D. Gray

Lipscomb is an institution with which I had a relationship that began in segregation. Their conferring a degree on me,... was an act of reconciliation for both me and for the university. It was a powerful event that spoke to not only my life and work, but the changes that have occurred at Lipscomb University, in the church and in society.

Fred D. Gray, civil rights era lawyer and activist, graduate of Nashville Christian Institute, namesake of Lipscomb’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, commenting on the 2012 awarding of an honorary degree from Lipscomb, in “Bus Ride to Justice,” Epilogue to Revised Edition


Student Voice: Maria Arellano (’20), Accounting graduate

My favorite extracurricular activity at Lipscomb was the Presidential Ambassador Council. I had the opportunity to work closely with President (L. Randolph) Lowry and Mrs. (Rhonda) Lowry, and they are the reason I was able to finish my education at Lipscomb. I will forever be grateful for President Lowry and Mrs. Lowry because they helped me get the assistance I needed when I could no longer afford to continue my journey at Lipscomb. I am where I am because of them, and that is something I will never forget.”


William Lofton Turner, Lipscomb University, Distinguished Professor of Leadership and Public Policy and Special Counsel to the President for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

William Turner

Dr. Lowry has demonstrated his commitment to create a more diverse and inclusive university through his actions.  Under his watch, with intention, the numbers of students, faculty, staff and administrators of color have increased. Among the myriad of initiatives that he championed include the implementation of a Campus Climate Survey to better understand the campus environment with respect to race and ethnicity and could prove very significant in shaping the future of diversity and inclusion efforts at Lipscomb. He also created of Respect Leads: Lipscomb’s Diversity and Inclusion Council to advise the institution on matters of diversity and inclusion, and he appointed the first person of color to the university’s Executive Leadership Team. All of these efforts are meaningful  and significant to Lipscomb’s mission to better serve all of humanity.


Lipscomb Retrospective:

What does it mean to be part of the Lipscomb community?... A community that models for the world the difference God makes when we are bound together by love. A community that doesn’t allow our differences to divide us with the seeds of discord, but rather a community that loves in ways that only God’s people can love.

David Scobey, chair of the Lipscomb Board of Trustees 2011 to 2017, at the 2017 Convocation ceremony in Allen Arena

President Lowry with former U.S. President Bush at Imagine

A spirit of connection leads to a future reinforced by deep relationships


Lipscomb Retrospective:

I love the role that Lipscomb plays in this community. I love how involved Lipscomb is in the community both as an institution and as individuals. Whatever students take away with them from their college experiences here, I hope that one of the things they take away with them is their experience of being a part of the fabric of a community that God has called them to for a reason. Lipscomb has done a wonderful job of modeling that.

Bill Haslam, Tennessee Governor (2011-2019), from a chapel talk at Lipscomb in 2015

Ralph Schulz, President and CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

Ralph Schultz

Lipscomb is an integral part of Nashville and a part of Nashville’s brand. For those students, on the campus, you have created an experience that is premier in the county. Community leaders, mayors, governors, businesspeople have sought you for your advice as we move and propel Nashville forward and you’ve been a key part of that leadership.

You are beloved by people outside of that community. The work and support that you have provided to the young professionals of Nashville, sponsoring awards, hosting events and encouraging their rise in our economy is something they will always appreciate for a long time… Thank you for continuing to be a part of this community into the future.


Lipscomb Retrospective:

I’m excited to be a part of that progress, because Lipscomb University and the city of Nashville are both on the move. But for Nashville to reach the next level as a truly great American city, we need innovative partners like Lipscomb, a partner that is innovative in education, in workforce development and in service to the community.

Karl Dean, Former Nashville Mayor, (2007 to 2015), in 2014 at the Ryman Auditorium, announcing the Lipscomb:NEXT initiative


Walt Leaver, Lipscomb University, Vice President of University Relations

From the beginning of his presidency, it was clear that Randy wanted to make the Lipscomb campus available to the community. For more than a decade, in addition to regularly scheduled athletic events and with the exception of the recent pandemic, an average of more than 150,000 guests visited the campus each year for a wide variety of events - including meal programs, concerts, graduation ceremonies for local high schools and much, much more.  Regardless of the event, the goal was (and is) for every guest to enjoy a very positive "Lipscomb experience." 


Turney Stevens, Dean Emeritus, College of Business, Director, Dean Institute of Corporate Governance, Chair of the Board, Operation Andrew Group

Turney Stevens

Turney Stevens, Director, Dean Institute for Corporate Governance & Integrity

When Dr. Randy Lowry came to Lipscomb in 2005, I know the Board expected that the university was destined to be blessed with a dynamic, energetic and highly effective leader but I doubt if anyone at that time suspected just how dynamic, energetic and effective the powerful team of Randy and Rhonda Lowry would turn out to be over the next 16 years. The university, the faith community of Nashville, and the city itself have all been blessed beyond measure by Rhonda. Her distinct personality and skills were brilliantly expressed through her role in academic teaching, in tirelessly extending her hand of compassion and hospitality, and as president of Operation Andrew in convening the churches of the community to serve their city. For just such a time as this, I believe she was raised up by God to bless Lipscomb and beyond.


Lowry serves coffee in Starbucks

A spirit of service leads to a future marked by caring


Alan D. Valentine, President and CEO, The Nashville Symphony

Alan Valentine

When the Schermerhorn flooded in 2010, we immediately had to plan where else we could hold performances. Randy Lowry was one of the first people to call me directly and say, ‘How can we help the Symphony?’ We hosted two of our concert series at Lipscomb until the Schermerhorn was back open. They even went so far as to move an NCAA basketball game from Allen Arena so we wouldn’t have to cancel a show! So many people in the community helped us, but Lipscomb and Randy played a key role in helping the Nashville Symphony to survive this crisis.



Jeff Fincher, Lipscomb alumni, Former Director of Missions, Former Director of City of Children children’s home in Mexico

When I began as the first Director of Student Missions in 2002, Lipscomb sent 6-8 teams on short term mission trips throughout the year.  Since then, the University has become much more overt and deliberate in its efforts to integrate faith into learning as a distinctly Christian University.  In the beginning, our goal was for every student to leave the university believing they were a missionary in whatever context they found themselves in. 
That missional mindset spread throughout the rest of the campus through the LIFE program, the Serving and Learning Together (SALT) initiative, the IDEAL program, and Business as Mission (BAM) in the College of Business.  These strategic programs have not only fueled Lipscomb's growth as a university, they have literally shaped and changed the lives of thousands around the globe. I could not be more proud of what Lipscomb has become in the past 16 years and can't wait to see what is next!


Student Voice: Neyland Darnell (’20), May graduate, Nursing major
Neyland Darnell

Dr. and Mrs. Lowry have taught me so much about exceeding and reaching goals in life and faith. They will never know the impact they left on my time at Lipscomb University. My favorite times consisted of lessons learned and laughter shared at their beautiful home. I could never say enough about Dr. Lowry and Mrs. Lowry; however, I can say thank you! Thank you for opening up your home to us whenever necessary, thank you for helping me through tough times like when my uncle passed away and you showed up at the funeral, thank you for the impact and growth you’ve brought to Lipscomb, and most of all thank you both for welcoming me and helping me to dive deeper in my faith and opening my my mind to new visions of church and community. You will be missed Dr. and Mrs. Lowry!