February 26, 2007
Nothing permanent except change
Gerry Lowrey, senior director for campus relations of the emory alumni association, will retire from emory at the end of the month to direct hambidge, an artist-residency program and fine-arts center in raburn county, ga.
After 30 years at Emory,
I feel like I am finally graduating! From student to staff member, coach to faculty member, I have seen Emory from countless perspectives. This University has been the home of my professional life and a community that has supported my growth and development as a person.
This month, I am leaving this home having accepted the position of executive director of the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, www.hambidge.org.
Emory is a wonderful institution and truly a hard place to leave. I first arrived on campus in 1976, an eager 29-year-old graduate student in the Institute of Liberal Arts intending to concentrate my studies on creativity and the “play” element in culture. “Too broad,” said my advisor Robert Detweiler. “Much too broad, you need to focus.”
After years of courses in cultural anthropology, psychology and history, and endless conversations with my advisors, Professor Detweiler, Elizabeth Stevenson and Robert Wheeler, it finally dawned on me to study my own favorite form of play: recreation in the wilderness. Studying wilderness in America and the history of American recreation, I produced my dissertation, “Benton MacKaye’s Appalachian Trail as a Cultural Symbol.”
Now as I take the executive director’s position at Hambidge, I have come full circle in a way. The Hambidge Center supports the arts by providing artists the setting, solitude and time necessary to create. Located in Rabun County in the northeast corner of Georgia, Hambidge has pledged to preserve its 600 acres of pristine land, which includes waterfalls, open meadows and miles of trails through the beautiful mountain forests. Hambidge believes that artists and their art are crucial to exploring, understanding and appreciating life; they are like antennas — perceiving everything, and then broadcasting that perception so the world may be better comprehended by those in it. The Hambidge residency program, arts education, workshops and environmental programs provide a unique environment in which artists can create. With the Appalachian Trail only a few short miles west of Hambidge, my lifelong passions for creativity, play, the environment and education are all gift wrapped in my new job!
However, I will always love Emory. I will especially miss the people — the wonderful colleagues who have been my friends and associates on this 30-year journey. Thinking back on my time here, I remember the gang at the ILA — Bill Fox, Rosemary Magee, June Mann and so many more. How could I have been so lucky to have helped put together the team that built the Department of Athletics and Recreation into the Division III powerhouse it is today? Some of the folks we hired back then — Sandy Tillman, Joyce Jaleel, John Curtin, Mike Rubesch, Susie Gillespie and Myra Sims among others — are still contributing to making Emory a more vibrant community decades later.
A special thank you is due to the incredibly talented staff in the Emory Alumni Association. When I started in the alumni office, the common refrain on campus in other parts of the University went something like this: “We may be bad, but hey, we’re not as bad as the alumni office!” Over the past decade, the talented new members of the alumni relations staff have turned this area around completely.
Now, the EAA is a bodacious organization filled with cutting-edge programs much emulated by other university alumni offices. I feel a sense of pride in the way the alumni team supports each other and has engaged an increasing number of alumni in the life of their alma mater. I can leave confident that the EAA has never been stronger. The lion’s share of the credit for all this goes to the amazingly talented Allison Dykes and the multifaceted, always lively individuals who make up the staff of the EAA.
So many memories crowd my thoughts jostling for a mention. An autumn walk in Lullwater, the winter sunlight on the columns of Glenn Memorial at sunset, jumping for joy along with 3,000 others in the gym as our first basketball team defeated Washington and Lee at the buzzer with a prayer from beyond the three-point line, teaching yoga classes in the basement of Winship Hall, the old, old Dooley’s Den, the Alumni Memorial University Center, the old gym and so many other memories will accompany me into the mountains.
There is no way I can suitably say thank you to all the loving souls who have guided me, nurtured me and stuck with me when I was at my best and my worst. I have received so much more from Emory in the last 30 years than I have given. What a joy it has been to be engaged in service to Emory — the building, growth and enhancement of its community during its rise from a good regional institution to a truly world-class University! The future for Emory is bright and promises even more stellar accomplishments in the years to come.
Even though I have retired as a member of the professional staff, I will not say goodbye. After all, I am an alumnus and will love the blue and gold forever. You will see me on campus from time to time. Come visit me in the mountains. We can go for a hike and a tour of Hambidge.
Things change. As the ancient philosopher Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change.” Students may come and students may go. Faculty may come and faculty may go. Senior directors of the EAA may come and go. Only Dooley goes on forever.