SEARCH UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES
Jean Boyd Lowry, Oral History
Recorded: February 27, 2020
Interviewed and transcribed by Kathleen Siebert Medicus
[Interviewer]: This is Kathleen Siebert Medicus speaking on Thursday, February 27, 2020 at Special Collections and Archives in the Kent State University Library Building on the Kent Campus and I am conducting an interview over the telephone today for the May 4 Kent State Shootings Oral History Project. Could you please state your name, for the recording?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Jean Lowry, or Jean Boyd Lowry.
[Interviewer]: Okay, thank you Jean. Thanks so much for meeting with me today and being generously willing to share your story. I really appreciate it. If we could just begin with some very brief information about you, about your background, so we can get to know you a little bit. Could you tell us where you were born, where you grew up?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. And was there until I went away to school, to college.
[Interviewer]: Could you tell us a little bit about that and then the path that led you to Kent State?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, having grown up in Memphis, I had both sets of grandparents in California. So, each year, my mother would take us for the summer to see the grandparents in California. So, it’s not too surprising that I went to college and graduate school out there. I went to University of Redlands for a master’s degree. Some of the faculty there had been friends or graduate-school colleagues with one of the faculty members at Kent State. So, they were encouraging people to go to Kent State for Ph.Ds. And I was one of the people who was encouraged. I got a research fellowship at University of Washington and I got a teaching fellowship at Kent. With no internet, I didn’t realize the difference between these two institutions. Kent was a start-up, I was in the first year they were doing doctoral work. Washington had a really good reputation and a great track record, but, with no internet, I didn’t know the difference. So, I thought, research fellowship, teaching fellowship—well, I’ll take a whack at teaching. So, I came to Kent and was kind of surprised that I was in the first class.
[Interviewer]: So, you learned that after you had arrived, when you got here?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: After I’d arrived I learned that I was in that first group and it was a very small group. But, two weeks after being at Kent, I met this really nice guy to whom I’ve been married for fifty years. So, possibly a less-than-thoughtful choice of schools in terms of academic—certainly made a great personal choice.
[Interviewer]: That’s an interesting story, thank you. And could you tell us exactly what the program was that you were coming for, the Ph.D.?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I came in to Speech Pathology. Of course, now they call it either Communicative Sciences and Disorders or Speech Language Pathology, or one of those. But, in those days, just plain Speech Path.
[Interviewer]: And you got here in 1968, I believe you mentioned earlier?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I did.
[Interviewer]: Do you have any other first impressions when you arrived on campus? Your first few months here?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, it was my first time to go to a large public institution. And because I was in a doctoral program, I could—I lived off campus, I had an apartment. [editor’s note: she lived in Franklin Apartments] And I could park on campus. So, virtually everybody else, of course, rode the buses.
[Interviewer]: That was a perk of being a grad student, yeah.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: It was really a perk. Park close and—and, you know, people were good. The people in the department were welcoming. You know, I came away thinking I had a good education and I did.
[Interviewer]: Did you have any initial observations about protest movements on campus, maybe civil rights or anti-war? And maybe how that compared to other, you know the previous campuses where you’d done your studies?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, on the previous campuses, small private school: there was no word of protest. But, they had had, the year before the killings—you know, SDS had been on campus, they had taken over the building I was in because it had the radio station up top. It had been handled incredibly smoothly. You know, they just pulled up buses, cleared the building, took those people to jail, basically.
[Interviewer]: Do you remember what building that was, where you were located?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: No. Well, fifty years is a long time.
[Interviewer]: We could probably reconstruct that, don’t worry. So, that was around ’68, ’69, your first year or so here? Do you have any other memories of unrest on campus before 1970?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I didn’t because I didn’t live on campus. I came on campus, I did my job, I went to school, and I went home. So, I was not terribly involved in on-campus activities.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, you were a grad student, you were really busy, you were teaching.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: And trying to do my own thing.
[Interviewer]: And trying to get a Ph.D.! Maybe could you describe what your teaching experience was like a little bit? What your classes were like, how close were you with the students that you worked with? Anything like that that comes to mind.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Some of them certainly identified with me because I was young and I was a student. I did realize that having come from small colleges, where your hand was pretty well held, this was not Kent State. Had a girl in my class, I was teaching transcription phonetics and she didn’t show up on the roster. And I said to her, “You didn’t show up on the roster.” She says, “I’ll check it.” So, she went and checked it. She says, “I’m in the class.” And the second roster came out and she wasn’t on it. I said, “No, you’re not.” And so, I went and figured it out. She was in the room—she was supposed to be in the next classroom, next door. When she said to me, “I thought we were going to make speeches in this class.” It was past the time you could drop, I called the teacher who was teaching the course—no, I called her advisor and said, “Here’s what’s happened to this girl. This is her first quarter on campus. Will you help her get an administrative withdrawal?” And the faculty member said, “You know, our brightest students don’t come in January.” So, I said, “If you will not help her, I will.” And, at that point, the teacher said, “Oh, no, I’ll help her.” I don’t know if that happened or didn’t happen. But, I realized this is a large institution. It’s a sink or swim.
[Interviewer]: So, you were seeing kind of a difference in culture that way.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: And so many more students passing through. So, advisors were not having, quote, personal interactions with students, they were just signing them up and signing them off. And that’s the nature of size of the institution, I believe, I don’t think it made Kent better or worse than other large institutions. I think that’s just the way it was.
[Interviewer]: Well, that’s a good illustration of one of your early experiences teaching and teaching at a different size institution than you were used to. Thank you. So, you never found out whether that student was able to—
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I did not find out what happened to her. But I’m fearful not anything good.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, somebody in their first quarter, that could be discouraging enough that they don’t come back, or whatever.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: And the fact that they can’t figure out that you’re learning to transcribe in the international phonetic alphabet and you’re in a public speaking course?
[Interviewer]: Might be, you know, good to ask a question about.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Might be.
[Interviewer]: And that wouldn’t have happened in your undergrad school, in a smaller setting. Do you—I’m curious about where you were living. Were you living in the City of Kent, close to campus?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I was living close to campus in an apartment house.
[Interviewer]: Was the apartment—maybe can you paint a picture for us of what your neighborhood was like? Were most people in your building affiliated with Kent State?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Many of them were. When I came up to look for an apartment, I looked at this place. And, actually, my mother and I drove up together from Memphis. And she said, “I’ll go down and talk to the manager about this place” while I was looking around. And she said I was going to be a student at Kent State. And he said, “We don’t rent to students.” She said, “Well, she’s in a doctoral program and she is also is going to be teaching.” And, without that information, I would not have been in that apartment. So, no it was not a student housing. The woman who lived next door taught in Statistics, there were a variety of people in the building who worked at Kent, but they weren’t students.
[Interviewer]: Did you have any sense of what the relationship between community members and the university was at the time? Did you have any strong feelings about the mood?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I didn’t, but, there certainly was talk of town-gown problems. I didn’t experience them, but I heard them.
[Interviewer]: So, it was something you heard people mention, people talk about.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Students, that maybe they were not as welcome in the town, especially—well, bluntly—especially if they’d been drinking out on weekends. I understand that.
[Interviewer]: Did you live near the downtown area?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, nothing was very far away.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, true, good point! But you didn’t have to walk through downtown to get to your apartment?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I did not, that’s right.
[Interviewer]: At this point, do you want to go to your experiences, what you remember from the days leading up to the shootings on May 4? Maybe, the weekend prior or the week before, maybe starting with Friday? Wherever you want to start with what you remember.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Sure. I know virtually nothing about Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I was in my apartment or doing my thing and I was not on campus. I did know that the ROTC Building was burned and I’m sure I knew that from my husband, well, then, fiancé. Because we got married that year, that June. But, I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t see anything over that weekend.
So, I went in on Monday. And, at noon, a couple of us decided that we would go to lunch and we walked through campus and saw the protesters and the Guard down at the bottom of what was called Blanket Hill. And there was a fence between us and them. So, I was on the sidewalk on one side of the fence and the activities were on the other side. So, the Guard was shooting the canisters of tear gas and the students were—had the wet rags and were putting them over their face and picking them up and throwing them back at the Guard. And this was all down on the flat, below the hill.
[Interviewer]: At the bottom, of the hill, the flat part of The Commons, okay.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Yep. Went to lunch. On the way back, we were in about that flat area and a student—I was teaching that day—and a student dropped in right behind me and said—by the way, there were now no people there on the other side of the fence. And this student said to me, “Are we having class today?” And I said, “Of course. Why not?” And he said, “Because right over that hill, they are killing people.” So, I beelined it to my department, I walked in, already most of the faculty had cleared out. The secretaries were not there. The clinic supervisor saw me and came and she was crying. And she said, “You’ve been out there. I hear Sandy is dead.” I said, “I was not on that side. I don’t know.”
Hearing our voices, another faculty member, Dr. Adams, came out. And he said, “Go to your office this minute, get everything you’re going to need to finish your courses that you’re taking and that you are teaching. Get in your car and get off campus because we aren’t going to be back here for a long time.” Which is exactly what I did.
So, I went back to the apartment and you’d hear things. I’m assuming what I was hearing was a helicopter. Didn’t know if they were continuing to, quote, kill students. Had no idea what was going on. So, my fiancé was—I knew he was off campus because he was out—he was getting a Master’s of Art in Teaching. And he was out doing student teaching. Late in the afternoon, he got to my apartment and said he had tried to get back to his dorm room. He was a grad counselor on campus. He says, “The entire campus is sealed off. There’s no way to get back onto campus.” And, you know, it’s not like you had the internet with people buzzing all over it. You were just sitting there wondering what was going on on campus. Little did we know that they had, by that time, emptied the campus. So, you know, the word gets out. My sister in California tried and tried to call me, but all the trunk lines were jammed. And I don’t know how this information got there, but my parents were in South Africa. [editor’s note: family clarified that they were actually in Taiwan at the time] My dad did a lot of international lecturing.
[Interviewer]: That’s far away.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: It’s far away. And they heard, I don’t know how this—I don’t how the information got to them, but the information was that students were killed at Kent State and their names had not yet been released. They go into the hotel where they’re staying and they have an overseas call. So, they immediately get on the phone to me and they get through instantly, which is amazing. Well, it turns—what it turns out is the overseas call was coming from South America where they were headed next, it wasn’t even coming from the States. But, that was a moment of real panic for them.
[Interviewer]: Of course, yeah. So, luckily, they got through to you and could learn, quickly, that you were safe.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I couldn’t believe they got through so quickly. Nobody was getting through quickly. But, they did.
[Interviewer]: When did your sister finally find out?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, after they did, but very shortly. You know, basically, you just had to keep dialing because people were just checking up on kids. No cell phones.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, and people were trying to call out, to get a ride home, that kind of thing. Could you tell us a little bit about Sandy? I understand Sandy Scheuer, who was killed that day, was a student—was studying in the department where you were teaching.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: She was. I did not know her, she was an undergrad.
[Interviewer]: But speech pathology was her undergrad major?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Major. What I had heard was that she was in a class on the front of campus and that she and the boyfriend had walked up, trying to skirt the demonstration, so they had gone around and were coming through the parking lot to avoid it. And, you know, got killed.
[Interviewer]: She was someone who was, even though maybe you didn’t personally know her, you hadn’t had her in one of your classes, she was well-known in the department as one of the majors.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: She was well-known among her undergraduate peers. Yep. And, of course, faculty knew her.
[Interviewer]: Do you recall at all how big a program that was for the undergrads? It wasn’t a brand-new program for them?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: No, it wasn’t. And the master’s program was not new, either. I don’t know. But, I would imagine undergrad was, I don’t know, thirty or forty kids who were majoring. But, that may not be close, I don’t know.
[Interviewer]: One thing I was wondering about in your description of going to get lunch on Monday: the fence that you mentioned, was that a fence that was always there? Or was that a temporary—you’d never seen a fence there before?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I don’t know that. My sense is that it was there.
[Interviewer]: Is that a path you typically walked from your building—you were going to the Student Union maybe, at the bottom of The Commons, to get lunch?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Yes, but—I don’t know maybe it wasn’t there in the past because, otherwise, you’d see people out on the hill, so it probably wasn’t there. But, I’m not sure why it would have been put up for this.
[Interviewer]: Do you remember, when you were having lunch that day, did it feel pretty normal inside the Student Union? Was it sort of the typical lunch crowd?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: It did. I didn’t have—until the student dropped in behind me walking back to the department, I had no sense that this demonstration was violent. Or, when I came down, it was a small demonstration. It was when they moved them back up the hill, into the crowd that was watching in the parking lot that you got all that bank of students.
[Interviewer]: So, when you first walked to lunch and you saw protesters, do you have sort of a ballpark idea of how many people were actively protesting?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: At that point, they were tear gassing, so people had scattered and there were people who were getting the wet rags and throwing them back. And so, it was kind of a volley but, in my sight, there weren’t a ton of students. And it didn’t, for me, didn’t have a feel of danger. I mean, I didn’t see anybody pointing their rifles at them.
[Interviewer]: When you—do you have any other visual memories that stick out from around lunchtime, when you went to lunch—does anything else stick out that maybe you haven’t covered?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Not really. I remember the class bell ringing and students pouring out of one of the buildings, because, you know, it was lunch break. So, I do remember students coming out of buildings that I was facing. I don’t know what those would have been.
[Interviewer]: Classes were letting out, yeah.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Classes were letting out and students were, I think, coming out to watch. I think that’s how you got so many students up in that parking lot.
[Interviewer]: Right, it was a break between classes at that time. You had a break, so did a lot of other people.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Yeah. I don’t know if we ever taught at noon.
[Interviewer]: I’m curious, on Monday morning, when you first arrived on campus, did you encounter—I mean, what was your drive like from your apartment? When did you first see National Guard?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I don’t think I saw them coming in. I think the first I saw them was coming at lunch.
[Interviewer]: So, driving onto campus you didn’t get stopped or anything like that?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: No, but that may not be true. I may have seen them—I may have seen one or two as I was coming in to campus. Because, it wasn’t like they were all in one place.
[Interviewer]: And you had—you knew that they were already in town, you had heard that the National Guard had been called, so maybe you weren’t totally surprised to see some.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: No, I knew they were there. I was disappointed that they were there. Because the year before, things had been handled so smoothly by the locals.
[Interviewer]: The protest you described earlier.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: The SDS business.
[Interviewer]: From here, do you want to maybe tell us a little bit about what the following—the days following May 4 were like for you? Did you stay in Kent? How soon were you able to get back to campus? That sort of thing.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I stayed in Kent. Maynard, my fiancé, got us [unintelligible] the next day. My roommate, she went home because she didn’t live that far away. And I started organizing the assignments for my students to finish the class and I started working on my assignments to finish my classes.
[Interviewer]: So, that was plenty to keep you busy, definitely.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I didn’t go up and try to go on campus. At that point, I knew it was sealed off. By the next day, I knew that the campus was empty because teachers were already contacting us about where we could meet—graduate students in the department—to get ourselves finished. And we did. So, there was some contact with faculty off campus.
[Interviewer]: And that worked out for you, you were able to complete your coursework from that quarter?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Right.
[Interviewer]: Did you stay in your apartment that summer? Were you doing summer work on campus? Oh, and then you got married in June.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I did stay there, got married in June and—no, I didn’t stay there because we moved. We had, in Ravenna, there was a lady who had a little apartment upstairs and, when we were in Kent, we would stay in it. But, my husband is Canadian, so we moved to Sarnia, Ontario, where he began teaching and I was working on a dissertation. Which later flopped and I had to start over again and work on another one! They—I remember one of my advisors said, “You know if you just won’t get married for another year, you’ll finish this degree and, if you do get married, it’ll take you twice as long.” But it didn’t, it took me three times as long. But, still finished. Persistence pays.
[Interviewer]: Yes. So, when you moved with your new husband to Canada, you, at that point, had you been able to finish all your coursework?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I had finished my coursework and was working on, and had already put in a proposal on, a dissertation. The first one that didn’t—where my people changed groups without treatment. So, that’s no good, no baseline.
[Interviewer]: So then, you had a second topic.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: That’s right. I don’t know if it was better, but it got the degree.
[Interviewer]: Do you—is there anything about your experience in the immediate aftermath of the shootings that sticks out? The effect, maybe, that those events had on your life?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I’ve got lots of those. That was the day which [phone call cuts out briefly] fork in the road for me.
[Interviewer]: That was the day, I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I couldn’t quite hear.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: That was the day when it was kind of like a fork in the road.
[Interviewer]: Oh, a fork in the road, I see. Oh my gosh. How so?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: And I realized that if you wore a government uniform, you could kill people without having to take responsibility. And, if you look at the last fifty years, that’s pretty well been true until cell phones came in and everything was getting recorded. Now, it hasn’t been true for white people, but people of color sure know it. And, yeah, I also learned that day that it was incredibly easy to turn victims into the enemy. And there—and I have several examples of this.
When I was getting my students—I was at my apartment and I was getting my students set up in the coursework. A couple of them were locals, but they’d just come by, pick up the stuff, I’ll explain it to you in person.
[Interviewer]: Nice, okay.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: That’s what I thought. One of the faculty members in my department just couldn’t believe I did that. And how, quote, dangerous it was to have a student come to my apartment. And I—I couldn’t believe it.
[Interviewer]: Dangerous in terms of your personal safety, is that what they meant?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Yeah. And you just say, this is the Seventies, 7 – 0. Students aren’t out there carrying guns. You know, this is not the age of random violence against, basically, anybody. So, why are you worried? Well, he was worried because that was a student. Let me give you another example.
We went to Canada, lived a year. My husband really didn’t like teaching although he was a great teacher, he did it well. So, he decided to go back to graduate school in Michigan. Which meant I needed to get a job. Which I did, wasn’t very hard to get a job in those days, especially in speech path [pathology]. At the first of the year, they would introduce the new people in the district—in the school district. They—well, they had us introduce ourselves and I told them I was their speech pathologist, that I was also a student at Kent State. And I was booed.
[Interviewer]: You were booed? By the other staff at this school?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Professionals. The faculty. Not a lot of them, but the person running the meeting didn’t say, Excuse me, this isn’t how we treat new teachers. You say, Booed? You don’t even know me!
[Interviewer]: That must have been upsetting, oh my gosh.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, I remember it. Fifty years. I remember it.
[Interviewer]: Was this an elementary school, where you were teaching?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: It was, it was a district, elementary school district in Dowagiac, Michigan. And I thought, Wow, that tells me where I’ve moved. But, clearly, I wasn’t the only person who felt that. I don’t know if you have looked back through the Kent Staters from that time. But, there was a Kent Stater that came out in October of ’70 and it had a cartoon in it that had previously been done in the Miami News. And the cartoon showed somebody from the Ohio Grand Jury standing next to a National Guard and, at their feet, is a dead student lying face down. And the Ohio Grand Jury person—person from the Jury—is leaning in to the National Guardsman, sympathetically saying, “Are you all right?” That was reprinted in the Kent Stater. And you say, Wow, how does that happen that students, who were victims, are now being classed as the enemy?
[Interviewer]: Did you, that year when you were working at that elementary school district, did you have conversations with other faculty over the course of the year? Were people curious to hear what you saw, what you witnessed, to hear your story?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Absolutely not. No. Not only that—I’d never have one of those jobs again, by the way. I had eighty on my case load in three locations. And you can do something but nothing good with that set-up.
[Interviewer]: So, eighty different children?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: And, of course, one of the schools, I only come to once a week. And I probably only saw the children there half the time because I was assigned there on a Friday and that was their special day. “Oh, you can’t take them out of the movie, you can’t take them, da-da-da-dat.” Anyway, but, teachers in that district, especially at one school, let me know I would never fit in. And I don’t know if that’s—I don’t what that was. I don’t know if it was related to Kent or not. But, they were obvious.
[Interviewer]: They made it clear to you, yeah.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Made it absolutely clear.
[Interviewer]: Is there anything else from that period in your life that sticks out in your memory?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Not really. Later, when I was a faculty member and—I’d always introduce myself. I realized what had happened to the story of Kent State. So, I was there one day, first day, with a group of new students. And I said, you know, where I had gotten my education and that I’d gotten a Ph.D. at Kent State. There was one older student in the class and she said, “Were you there in its infamous days?” And I said, “Oh, yes.” And that was news to every other one of those students in the class. They said, “What made it infamous?” I said, “Well, when the National Guard can come on campus and kill students without anyone taking responsibility.” And they looked at me and said, “That couldn’t have happened in this country.” They had never heard it. It had not been mentioned in school, it didn’t show up in any textbooks. But, about, I’d say ten years later, I had people who would come in and ask me about Kent State because now it was back in. They did know about it. So, there was this kind of let’s-pretend-this-didn’t-happen stage. And then the we’ve-got-to-own-up-to-it stage.
[Interviewer]: Can you give us kind of a time frame for that first question you had in class, “Were you there during the infamous days?” And where you were? You were teaching college?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Oh, I was in Southern California because that’s where I taught. And I don’t know. But, I do know the second one was in the Nineties.
[Interviewer]: In the 1990s? When it felt like students were more informed about the history of Kent State?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Yes, yes.
[Interviewer]: And the class where students hadn’t heard about it, so that was earlier in your career?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: That was at least ten years earlier. So, that had to have been in the maybe late Seventies, early Eighties. But, I thought it was interesting that they had not a clue.
[Interviewer]: And, at that college, were most of your students from the area or from in state? Or did you have students nationally attending that college where you were teaching?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Most of them were from the West, from the western U.S. We had a lot from Arizona, Nevada, you know, but western United States primarily. Although we had a smattering of international students, too.
[Interviewer]: Where were you teaching, just for the record?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Loma Linda. Loma Linda University. So, it’s a health science university, no freshmen and sophomores. They’d transfer for professional training. So, there was no English department or history department on campus, it was all, you know, allied health, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, all professional schools. Speech Pathology was in allied health with P.T. and O.T. and all kinds of that stuff.
[Interviewer]: And were you there for much of your career?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Oh, close to forty years.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, okay. That, maybe, is more than much! The majority of it.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I did some, when we lived in Ohio, I did some work for visiting nurses, so you’d see patients in their home. Before that, I had worked at a school for, what was then called deaf and aphasic kids. We don’t use the term aphasic for children. So, yes, the majority of my time. But, everybody practiced as well as taught. So, I was never, in those years, without client contact.
[Interviewer]: And, generally, you feel—in general, would you say your Kent State background served you well?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Oh yeah. First of all, I used to say to my students all the time, “I hope you’re not practicing like I am five years from now, because I don’t plan to be.” So, was it a good foundation? Yes. But, was it how I practiced forty years later? Not even close.
[Interviewer]: The field is always changing, yeah. I guess, at this point, I don’t have any other follow-up questions. I don’t know if there’s anything else you’d like to talk about that we haven’t touched on?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, there’s one thing that I think is possibly the best description of me. The L. A. Times, in 2000, ran a series of stories that shaped the century. And they ran one on Kent State. And I—I don’t have it any more, of course. But, the beginning sentence was something that went along the lines of, “If on a beautiful May day, the National Guard can kill unarmed students and left a generation more cynical than their parents or their children.” I think that’s pretty true of me. And it was the fork in the road that day.
[Interviewer]: How would you characterize that feeling for yourself, of more cynical?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, I think that, as I hear stories on television, I’m likely to say, “That’s truth for somebody, maybe.” But, when you realize how many untrue things were said about what happened at Kent. I will add one more thing. You remember when the Scranton Commission was on campus? Okay. I was working on my research. My good Canadian husband, of course, couldn’t work. So, he sat in the Scranton Commission every single day. He needed someplace to be. I went one day. And, you know the Commission was down front and we were all sitting up above, kind of on risers, or whatever. I mean, it was stepped up. In one corner, up front, was a man with a camera. And in the other corner was a man with a camera and the guy with the camera was shooting half of the audience, each person, so they were crisscrossing who they were snapping pictures of, basically all day long.
[Interviewer]: So, you—it really looked like to you that they were focusing on an individual, one at a time, and moving down the row?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I did. And you might find that’s not true, but that’s what it looked like to me. I was only there a few hours. But I talked to Maynard about it and he said, “Oh yeah, they’re always there. I’m sure somewhere, since I was there every day, there’s a file on me.” This is a government-sponsored—and you say, “Really?”
[Interviewer]: So, he saw those people with cameras, they were there every day when the Commission—
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Oh, he thought they were there—I don’t know, he’s not terribly observant every day, I don’t know, but I think so.
[Interviewer]: Do you have a visual memory of what these individuals looked like?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: No, all you saw was their camera. But you saw: snap, snap, snap.
[Interviewer]: You could hear the cameras.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I couldn’t hear them, but I could see them taking the pictures. And you say, “Really, is this how our government works?”
[Interviewer]: And was it really crowded? Were there—it was a full house, people observing?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Oh, the seats were all full. Yep. And they came and went, I mean, we had other things to do except for people who can’t work. So, yeah, I think that—I don’t know what happens to those kinds of things. Maybe they get thrown out? Who knows? But, is this the first time you’ve heard that?
[Interviewer]: Well, and I should say for the people listening to the oral history, that there is also an oral interview with your husband, Maynard Lowry, and he does describe his memories of sitting in on these Scranton Commission hearings and talks about those people taking pictures. That was the first time I’ve heard anybody talk about that in any of the oral histories. So, you’ve now corroborated his observation.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Well, it was true, I saw them.
[Interviewer]: Was it interesting being there? Were you glad that you went that day?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Commissions run very slowly. But yes, was I glad I was there? Yes. And, as I recall, the person they were interviewing that day was the geology professor. Because, you know, there ultimately was rock throwing. And he was up there, and it is to his credit that things got calmed down and the students moved off that hill.
[Interviewer]: This is Professor Glenn Frank that you are talking about?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: That’s the one. But, I remember one of them saying—he described a rock in some technical term and he says, “Well, that’s what you get when you get, you know, the professional testimony, an accurate description of rocks!” People laughed, you know.
[Interviewer]: Because he was a geologist, right.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Right.
[Interviewer]: What do you remember of just your impression of him? Had you met him or known him before you saw him testify?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: No. The only time and I was only there a few hours. But, I mean, he certainly came across as clearly student-focused and I think there’s a lot of credit to be given to him that things did not escalate. At least, that was the impression I got from the answers to his questions in the, I don’t know, three hours that I was there.
[Interviewer]: What he reported on what he did that day.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Yep. And they were very good in the kinds of questions they asked to bring it out. So, it appeared to me, that the people on the Commission were taking the job seriously and had come prepared. I don’t know what became of it, but I think they did an honest job.
[Interviewer]: Were any parts of it emotional for him?
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Didn’t seem to be. Of course, we’re what, months out now. And time has a way of putting things into compartments or perspective or whatever you want to call it.
[Interviewer]: Okay. Well, thank you so much, Jean. Unless there’s anything else you wanted to mention, I think we’ll close here.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: I don’t think so. I wish you well on your project.
[Interviewer]: Again, thank you so much. Thank you. I’ll stop the recording.
[Jean Boyd Lowry]: Okay. ×
Lowry, Jean Boyd
Student at Kent State University in 1970
|Date of Interview||
Jean Boyd Lowry was a Kent State graduate student studying speech pathology and working as a teaching assistant in 1970. She describes what she witnessed happening on The Commons during the noon hour on May 4 as she walked to get lunch. She shares her memories from returning to her department offices immediately after that: the reactions of others in her department and quickly packing up her office before the campus closed. She relates her experience attending the Scranton Commission hearings later that year and what she heard of Professor Glenn Frank's testimony along with other personal experiences during the aftermath of the shootings.
|Length of Interview||
|Time Period discussed||
Common fallacies--Political aspects
Community and college--Ohio--Kent
Frank, Glenn W.
Kent State University. School of Speech
Scheuer, Sandra, d. 1970
United States. President's Commission on Campus Unrest
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Kent State University
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The content of oral history interviews, written narratives and commentaries is personal and interpretive in nature, relying on memories, experiences, perceptions, and opinions of individuals. They do not represent the policy, views or official history of Kent State University and the University makes no assertions about the veracity of statements made by individuals participating in the project. Users are urged to independently corroborate and further research the factual elements of these narratives especially in works of scholarship and journalism based in whole or in part upon the narratives shared in the May 4 Collection and the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project.
May 4 Collection