In Memory: Professor Emeritus J. Michael Lowe

Dear Laurentian community,

It is with great sadness that we share with our community the passing of our retired colleague, mentor, and friend J. Michael Lowe, G.L. Flint Professor of Fine Arts. A member of our faculty from 1966 to 2003, Michael was a fount of creativity and warmth in Griffiths where he empowered generations of young ceramists and sculptors to find their passions and hone their techniques.

Michael earned his Bachelor in Fine Arts degree from Ohio University in 1964, the same year he married his wife and lifelong companion Sandra Miller. After applying his craft as a ceramic designer with the Phil-Mar Corporation in Cleveland, he and Sandra traveled several hundred miles east to the verdant cradle of New York State’s Finger Lakes region. There, Michael continued his sculpture and ceramics training at Cornell University. The beauty and tranquility of the region would serve as a source of inspiration for Michael throughout his life. He and Sandra returned to the area in 2006, where they lived together until his passing. 

At Cornell, Michael trained under the expertise of Victor E. Colby and Jack L. Squire. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1966 and began teaching at St. Lawrence shortly thereafter. It was a gift to call him a member of our faculty for 37 years, though many of the close bonds he formed with colleagues and former students transcended his official retirement date. 

Throughout his time at St. Lawrence, Michael was a champion for innovation in the fine arts department. He pioneered its 2D and 3D arts program, expanding its capabilities to meet the needs of the University and provide greater creative opportunities for students. Michael served as Fine Arts Chair several times throughout his tenure and became a wealth of historical departmental knowledge, having played a central role in its evolution over the years. The committees for Art Acquisitions, Faculty Life and the Steinman Arts Festival (now the Arts Collaborative program) all benefited from his service, vision, and partnership.

Colleagues of Michael describe him as endlessly diligent, jovial, and gracious. They note his remarkable dedication as a professor, which could only come from a place of sheer love for both his craft and his pupils. He ran the department’s kilns, directed the Honorary Society, and rarely, if ever, missed a day of class in his 37 years of teaching. Inside and outside the studio, his compassion and good humor were contagious. Former colleagues and students alike recall with deep fondness his sparkling anecdotes, jokes, and witticisms, all emblematic of his creative spirit. 

With support from the William and Flora Hewlett and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations, Michael created a 20-foot long sculpture (located above the entrance to Gulick Theatre) for the University in 1985, leaving his physical mark on our campus to complement his transformative legacy in our University’s history. 

A passionate and active member of the Canton community, Michael contributed to our region’s strong tradition of local art and craftsmanship. He served as a juror at several shows and was a trustee of the Frederic Remington Museum in Ogdensburg.

Michael is survived by his wife Sandi, son Brian, daughter-in-law Elaine and grandson Ethan.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Bangs Funeral Home in Ithaca, New York. We hope you’ll share memories and join our community in celebrating Michael’s life on our memorial pages

Kate Morris