GAMBIER — Kenyon College alumnus William E. Lowry Jr., Class of ’56, started his commencement address to the 182nd graduating class of his alma mater with a joke about a previous alum who went on to become president of the United States.
“Rutherford B. Hayes and I were not classmates,” Lowry said.
But the philanthropist, who is retired from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, had some serious things to say, lauding the unusual mixture of social informality and academic seriousness all wrapped up in a rural setting that is part of the Kenyon mystique.
He praised the personal involvement and integrity of Kenyon students, which he cited as a key part of changing his life during college. Lowry, an African-American, said that when he first arrived in Mount Vernon on the train in 1952, he was seated in the back of an otherwise empty diner, by the kitchen door, when he ordered breakfast.