Forever Wildcats

Jan. 24, 2013

We are a lifetime University of Arizona family.

When my wife Edith was a little girl, she pedaled her tricycle from her home, which was under the present site of the Cherry Avenue Garage, to the football field. After crawling under the fence, the players let her ride on the sled being pushed by linemen.

A few years later, my older brother Bill was on the football and track teams, and I sometimes rode my bicycle from Mansfeld Junior High, or later Tucson High School, to watch them practice before heading home, four miles north.

Edith ended up playing field hockey and other sports as a UA student and earned a nice white letter sweater. I played football, was on the rifle train, and rode, not very successfully, in two University rodeos. I earned sweaters for football and shooting, but just scrapes and bruises from riding.

Edith graduated with a degree in anthropology in 1948. With a lot of influence and encouragement from then Mines College Dean Thomas G. Chapman, I earned a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering the next year.

I’d decided to be a mining engineer as a child and never wavered.

In 1936, when I was 7-years-old, my father invited me to spend summer vacation with him living in a tent at the Silver Hill mine. There was no electricity or refrigeration or radio.

The mine had an 80-foot-deep shaft with ladders, from which a drift followed a vein. On one occasion my father let me spit the round. I held 12 fuses, lit them and yelled, “Fire in the hole!” in a piping voice. I scampered up the ladder as fast as I could, my father just behind to see that I didn’t miss a rung. We sat on boxes at the collar of the shaft and counted the muffled explosions.

I thought to myself, “Life can’t get any better than this.”

In my business, people travel a lot. After college, we moved to Mexico. We’ve lived in exploration camps on the Colorado Plateau, in Prescott, Ariz. and in Santiago, Chile. I’ve also lived in Lima, Peru, northern Canada, and the Philippines. In total, I’ve worked in 35 or 40 countries. I am still working and will make six overseas trips this year.

We bought a home in Tucson in the 1960s and most years have had season football tickets. Since the Lute Olson era, we’ve held season basketball tickets, too.

We have been very lucky professionally and in business. Eventually we accumulated between us a total of five earned and honorary Arizona degrees, and in recent years have supported projects related to Earth science as well as the Institute of Mineral Resources, Arizona Athletics and the Arizona State Museum. It has been a lot of fun to come back.

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

By J. David Lowell, ’49, a member of the Founders Society. To learn more about supporting capital projects, contact Donor Services at 520-621-9076 or The essay was originally featured in the UA Foundation's 2012 Annual and Endowment Report.