BA , 1979
There are three generations of SFU alumni in Jeff Lowe’s family. Not only do all of Lowe’s children have SFU degrees, but his wife Donna earned her degree in Education at SFU, and both his mother and father studied in the Department of English at SFU in the 1960s. After graduating from SFU with his degree in Sociology & Anthropology in 1979, Jeff Lowe went on to study law at UBC and has been a successful lawyer at Richards Buell Sutton, BC’s oldest law firm, where he has been Managing Partner for 26 years. In addition to his legal career, Lowe’s service includes volunteering for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, sitting as Vice Chair of the Langara College Board of Governors, and helping to establish educational foundations like the Vancouver College Millennium Foundation.
Lowe says the value of a post-secondary education cannot be undervalued and he credits his own educational successes to the examples set by his parents. Lowe’s father, Robert or “Bob” Lowe graduated from SFU with a Masters in English in 1969, studying under SFU’s first academic planner and head of the Department of English, Ron Baker. Lowe’s mother Leslee also took English courses at the same time. Jeff Lowe explains that before pursuing post-secondary education, his father Bob worked as a milkman. Bob Lowe eventually earned his degree in English from UBC and was teaching public school full-time when he entered SFU’s MA program. Bob Lowe went on to teach and steer the English department at Douglas College and served as Academic Vice President for Kwantlen University College.
Jeff Lowe says he watched his dad read, study, and write papers in the evenings after coming home from his day job. He also recalls how his friends at the time were surprised when he would mention his mother was also taking university courses. “ ‘Your mother’s doing what!? They’d say?!’ To me it was just normal.” He adds, “My dad had done graduate school and I got to see what academic life was like. The whole process of going to university and graduate school was familiar to me, unlike maybe other kids. When I was 10 or 12, I had seen my dad doing his Masters and I watched him working away in the evenings. The studying and paper-writing process wasn’t all that foreign.”
Lowe chose to major in Sociology and Anthropology at SFU because the Department offered a lot of breadth. He says the late Professor Ian Whittaker was a great mentor and supporter, and nominated Lowe for the Gordon Shrum gold medal convocation award. Lowe notes that his time at SFU went by fast as he had his sights set on attending law school, and he took full advantage of SFU’s trimester system to be able to earn his BA in just three and a half years. “I was in a bit of a rush because I wanted to enter law school for September of 1979. So I basically worked around the clock, all three semesters so that I could finish in just over 3 years. I then worked for 6 months and started law school while my wife, Donna, began her work as a teacher in the public school system.”
When asked about the number one skill he honed during his undergraduate degree, Lowe says it was writing and argumentation skills. “To be honest,” he says “having those years of practise writing and creating arguments is really important, even today. From time to time you come across people in the legal profession who don’t have good writing skills and it really stands out. It takes some discipline to be able to work through a body of information and make sense of it.” Reflecting on his own struggle to get through law school, Lowe notes that today’s students also face challenges: “It’s a competitive landscape with a lot of pressures. Access to education is important. We have a lot of foreign students in Canada now which are very important to the financial aspect of the whole educational ecosystem. At Langara for example, as with other postsecondary schools, much of the international student programming helps to fund other programs at the college. [International students] come here highly motivated to do really well and sometimes I think our home-grown kids find it challenging to compete with that—It’s competitive academically and it’s also financially expensive to live in the city and pay for education and tuition costs.”
Lowe says he has perhaps been a little “militant” in his advice to his own children that they pursue post-secondary degrees. He tells them not only to work hard, but to “be aware of the fact that we live in a credential-driven society. If you don’t have those credentials, you’re just not going to get the same opportunities.” Lowe’s children Christopher, Danielle, and Michael all completed undergraduate degrees at SFU: Christopher and Michael in Business Administration and Danielle in Communications. All three went on to do Masters or professional programs, with Christopher working toward becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst, Danielle earning an MA in Counselling Psychology from Adler University, and Michael finishing a Masters of Science from the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University.
Lowe says he couldn’t be prouder of his children’s accomplishments, but he is humble about his own achievements and successes as a leader at BC’s oldest law firm. After law school, Lowe completed his articling at Richards Buell Sutton, made partner at age 31 and became Managing Partner at age 32. Today, he continues to help steer and grow the firm. “I guess it is unusual, being in this position for as long as I have, but the firm has grown and I’ve enjoyed the time and contributions I’ve been able to give.”
-Written by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Published September 2016