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Longtime Southern Miss Food Services Director to Retire After 30 Years
Bob Lowe Joined University Staff in 1976 As Director of Union Grill

Date 7-10-06

Contact David Tisdale 601.266.4499


Hattiesburg—Bob Lowe says every day is a new adventure in food services, which is what attracted him to the business that eventually lead him to a 30-year career serving meals to students, faculty and staff at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Lowe retires from his post as the university’s food services director this week, three decades after he joined the Southern Miss family in 1976 as director of the University Union Food Services, now Seymour’s Grill.

Before that he briefly managed a campus eatery known as Exit 13 while working for Jackson’s Valley Foods Company. “It’s exciting work, especially being in a college environment,” he said. “As you get older, being around them (students) helps you stay younger mentally.”

Lowe took over as director of the university’s food services in 1984. He said the biggest changes he has seen are the addition of more eating venues across campus in recent years, including the Starbuck’s Coffee Shop in Cook Library, the Power House Restaurant and the Fresh Food Company in the Thad Cochran Center, set to open later this year.

Lowe credited former Southern Miss President Dr. Aubrey Lucas with securing an allocation of $10 million for the new student dining facility in the Cochran Center. “It’s going to be really nice,” he said of the new facility. “We’ve really come a long way as far as our food service delivery capability at the university.”

It was at the tail end of his career that he faced his biggest challenge. When Hurricane Katrina struck last August, Lowe said he had to literally cut his way through the debris strewn across Highway 49 as he traveled from his home in Magee to campus the evening after the storm passed through. Once on the Hattiesburg campus, he was immediately faced with a challenge – feeding the students who remained in their residence halls and rode out the storm - without the benefit of electricity or running water.

“By the time I got to campus, there was not a light in sight,” he said. “I had a flashlight, and I went into my office and just sat down, and tried to think of a plan. There was no way to call anybody, you couldn’t do anything. I just thought, ‘What can we cook?’”

“We cooked on gas stoves in a makeshift dining room downstairs the first few days before power and water came back on. Once the power came back on, it got a little better. It’s something I’ll never forget, I tell you that,” said Lowe.

Lowe credited his staff for helping get through the challenging days following Katrina. “We fought it out and hung in there” he said. “It worked out real good. We didn’t have to beg anyone to show up to work, they just came and pitched in.

“I’ve really been blessed with a great staff all these years,” he said. “They’ve been tremendous. I just can’t say enough about them.”

Lowe and his wife, Olivia, who is food services director at Millsaps College, plan to see the country after both retire. “I’ve got a five-wheel camper and we’re going to do some traveling,” he said.

Southern Miss Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul praised Lowe as a national expert in student food services. “Bob’s real mark is his passion for students and this university. He gave above and beyond every day he came to work here.”

Click to enlarge

Bob Lowe

July 10, 2006 10:08 AM

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