The seventh annual Lowell High School Distinguished Alumni Award Reception was held last night in the school’s Cyrus W. Irish Auditorium. The honorees were Helen Sawyer Hogg (1921), George Simonian (1945), Arnold Trebach (1946), Thomas Hayes (1978) and Patrick Tighe (1984). A theme that ran throughout the remarks of the recipients was how the diversity of Lowell High School – the first coeducational and the first racially integrated high school in the entire country – was great preparation for life in the United States.
Accepting the award for his late mother, David Hogg, told how after she became a world renowned astronomer, Sawyer Hogg (1921) consciously diverted time from her research to publicizing her work to give encouragement to young women scientists who faced significant barriers in the profession solely because of their gender.
George Simonian (1945), the former principal of Chelmsford High School and the founder of the CHS Alumni Association, quoted the African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” and explained that was exactly what happened to him here in Lowell and at LHS. Simonian emphasized the leadership training and experience he received as a Boy Scout whose troop met at the Cavalry Baptist Church and as a US Air Force pilot stationed in post World War II Germany.
The third recipient, Arnold Trebach (1946), holds a PhD in politics from Princeton as well as a law degree from New England School of Law. Trebach explained how, after college, he felt a deep sense of unfairness about the unequal treatment of African Americans and so became a leader of the US Commission on Civil Rights. Trebach has gone on to champion such controversial issues as the provision of legal representation to indigent defendants and a more equitable application of our country’s drug laws. He credited his life-long involvement in these causes to a lesson he learned at Lowell High: that “everyone should be treated equally.”
Thomas Hayes (1978) said that his math teachers at LHS would be astounded to know that he had spent the past twenty-five years in the high tech industry. Hayes made it through college never having touched a computer but explained that he had a visceral sense that there was a cultural revolution just beginning in Silicon Valley and so he moved there and remains there today. The most important thing he learned at LHS was the “why” of doing things which he explained as an ability to see and understand the big picture. He left Lowell High “fired up to make a difference in the world” and has devoted his career to making technology the “great equalizer for the little guy.”
Patrick Tighe ((1984), an architect living in Los Angeles, said Lowell High and the city itself was a place “where people look out for one another.” He told of his daily trips to “Mrs. Hancock’s art room” where he became “transfixed by the work and knew that if I could get a job doing what I did each day in that classroom, I’d have a happy life.” A story he told illustrated his Lowell High experience: The same Mrs. Hancock organized a one-day excursion for a small group of LHS art students to visit some of the best colleges in New York City. The group left Lowell at 4 am in Mrs. Hancock’s car, visited a number of schools where they were interviewed and showed their work. The trip was so successful (all were offered scholarships) that they decided to dine at one of New York City’s finest restaurants to celebrate. Unfortunately, they were turned away at the door because they didn’t meet the dress code. Determined to make it inside, out on the sidewalk they shuffled their clothing with Patrick even using the belt from his teacher’s raincoat as a tie. Re-entering the restaurant, they were met by a smiling maitre d’ who happily seated them.
While amusing, Patrick Tighe’s story of the NYC restaurant visit was also instructive, for it epitomized the “can do” spirit that Lowell High School has imparted on its students throughout its existence. A full list of prior LHS Distinguished Alumni is available on the Lowell High website.