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Outlook on Leadership

by Dan Wyant

Chairman & President

Hail, entrepreneur — and Darlene Lowe!

When our board of trustees met earlier this month, Darlene Lowe announced her decision to step down from her role as chairman. She will, however, continue to be involved in the foundation as its chairman emeritus.

“I am very proud of the direction the foundation is heading,” she wrote in a resignation letter. “This is the right time for me to turn the reins over to the next generation.”

Although Darlene served as the foundation’s board chairman for 25 years, her contributions to entrepreneurship actually span more than four decades. In the late 1960s she started her own interior design company, Haymarket Interiors. In the ‘70s she began working with Ed Lowe to grow Edward Lowe Industries, and together they launched the Edward Lowe Foundation in 1985.

Ed and Darlene felt that entrepreneurs were critical to our nation’s success, not only due to the jobs entrepreneurs create, but also the way they give back to communities. Being entrepreneurs themselves, Ed and Darlene knew that building a business is hard work. Through the foundation, they aspired to “champion the entrepreneurial spirit” by providing entrepreneurs with information, research and education to accelerate their growth.

In addition to structuring a financial endowment to support this mission, Ed and Darlene also wanted to create a special place where business leaders could convene and find inspiration. And it is here at Big Rock Valley where Darlene’s imprint is especially evident. The property’s 2,000 acres of woodlands, meadows, ponds and streams are beautiful to begin with. Yet leveraging her design expertise, Darlene created a unique aesthetic for its facilities and landscaping, along with standards for maintenance, that take Big Rock Valley to an even higher level.

When Ed died in 1995, Darlene took over as CEO and board chairman. Through her leadership, the foundation began to focus narrowly on second-stage entrepreneurs and create innovative programs to serve this audience. In addition, we’ve made a name for ourselves in the conservation arena through best practices for land stewardship, and Big Rock Valley has become a resource for academic researchers to conduct studies that broaden the knowledge base of conservation science.

As Darlene steps down, I’m both honored and humbled to take over as chairman, and I’ll continue in my role as president. The foundation’s dual mission of entrepreneurship and conservation correspond with my interests and passions, especially at this point in my life. It will be a challenge, but I hope to expand on what Darlene and Ed have created. Fortunately, I am supported by the wealth of talent and expertise found among our trustees and staff.

As Ed Lowe was fond of saying, “Hail, entrepreneur!” And to that I add, “Hail, Darlene Lowe!”

Published 12/18/2020