By Kristina Rolfes, Johns Hopkins University PrimeTime News, Fall 2011
India Lowres breezes through the entrance of a local coffee shop on a sunny morning in September, looking more like a co-ed than a retiree as she switches off her iPod, removes her earbuds and smiles. She has long been a familiar face in this neighborhood–she has spent the past three decades spreading what she calls her “passion for having fun” among the university and surrounding community.
For Lowres, a passion for fun is more than just an attitude, it’s the secret to success. And she might be on to something. During her tenure at Hopkins, she worked her way up from an entry-level admissions counselor all the way to the president’s office. Over the years she has received numerous accolades and awards, most recently the 2008 JHU Women’s Network Leadership Award, before retiring last year after 33 years of service.
“No one worked harder thanIndia and no one loves Hopkins more,” commented long-time colleague Jerry Schnydman, executive assistant to the president. “She always read more applications while in the admissions office, eagerly helped alumni all over the country, and took great joy in making graduation day a wonderful experience for students and their families.”
Lowres’ path to Hopkins began at a young age. In high school, her father urged her to attend college in nearby Arizona at a school known more for partying than academic achievement, but Lowres had bigger plans. She applied and was accepted to Johns Hopkins, which had recently begun admitting women. Instead of being intimidated, Lowres loved the idea of being one of only a handful of females.
Arriving on campus that first day in August 1972, upperclassmen rushing out of the dorm to greet her and carry her bags, she surely couldn’t have imagined how deep her roots here would grow.
As a freshman, Lowres studied Romance Languages, but after developing an interest in history and art, she switched her major to Humanities. She had no idea what she wanted to do after graduating, only that she didn’t want to leave. This, despite moving from place to place her entire childhood–Florida, Arizona, California, and Mexico had all been called home.
After earning her diploma, her father gave her an ultimatum–find a job or move back home. With this incentive, she quickly found an opening in the admissions office of Johns Hopkins, applied, and became an admissions counselor.
Only one detail remained. Her new position required travel and she had never learned to drive. So each afternoon, a driving instructor from Easy Method Driving School would pull up to Garland Hall and take her for a driving lesson until she was able to pass her driving test.
Working in admissions was “a tremendous amount of work, but deeply satisfying,” she says. Making decisions that affect the lives of students can prove intense, she explained, but when the incoming freshmen class arrives, “you’re able to see the fruit of your labor.” She worked her way up to associate director of undergraduate admissions before accepting a position as the director of alumni programs in 1989.
She describes her work in the Office of Alumni Relations as, above all, fun. She enjoyed interacting with a mixture of people from all types of jobs–electricians, plumbers, roofers, deans, students. A cornerstone of her philosophy, aside from having fun, is treating all people equally and with respect. “I made so many friends who are still my friends today,” says Lowres.
In 2004, she was offered a position as director of commencement in the Office of the President. Here, she showed a creative flair for problem solving. When given the seemingly impossible task of slashing the commencement budget without sacrificing quality, Lowres sent mass e-mails asking people to volunteer for tasks which had previously been handled by contractors. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of people volunteered to hand out programs, direct parking, organize people, staff the robing rooms, serve food, drive golf carts–everything that’s needed for a seamless event.
After six years as the director of commencement and a total of 33 years of service with the university, Lowres retired last year. But her ties to Johns Hopkins remain strong–she is on the reunion committee and volunteers for Blue Jays Unlimited, a group which supports and promotes Johns Hopkins Athletics. She’s even back on the Hopkins payroll, helping the admissions office review undergraduate applications during the winter months.
These days, she still has plenty of outlets for her energy. She is an artist–her current medium is plexiglass, which she fashions into jewelry, art, and even a light fixture for her kitchen. She takes classes at the Maryland Institute and stays involved in the local visionary arts community.
“Living in Baltimore has so much to offer,” says Lowres. Recently, she spent a day picnicking at Fort McHenry with a friend, followed by a relaxing sail on the Patapsco River. She enjoys being able to walk everywhere from her Charles Village neighborhood, Federal Hill, Fell’s Point, the Inner Harbor, perhaps stopping in Little Italy for ice cream. And if she wants a change of scenery, she hops on the Bolt Bus to New York City from nearby Penn Station.
Now that she’s retired, Lowres has more time to devote to her hobbies. She enjoys cooking, using herbs from her community herb garden to make fresh pesto or her latest creation, cardamom ice cream. She also spends time antiquing, finding treasures for her two antique shops–Avenue Antiques in Hamden and Another Period in Time in Fells Point.
For Lowres, retirement is not about slowing down and relaxing, but finding new ways to enjoy life. With a seemingly endless supply of energy and a penchant for having fun, retirement suits her well.