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March 9, 2022
  • image of Dr. Kem Lowry

Dr. Kem Lowry was the kind of teacher, mentor and friend whose kindness, generosity and skill in teaching, and listening, inspired and enriched the lives of his students and colleagues at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa — and allowed everyone he met to be their best selves. 

Gordon Kemmery Lowry Jr. — everyone knew him as Kem — was chair of the UH Mānoa Department of Urban and Regional Planning and professor emeritus, as well as director of the program on conflict resolution before retiring 11 years ago. He passed away in August from complications related to heart surgery at age 79.

Distinguished career

Kem Lowry
Kem Lowry

A Kansan with a sharp wit who bore a passing resemblance to David Letterman, Kem began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer and staff member in Malaysia after graduating from Washburn University and earning a master’s degree in international relations from George Washington University. 

He came to Hawaiʻi after the Peace Corps, earning a doctorate in political science at UH Mānoa in 1976 before joining the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, where he worked on water supplies, ocean and coastal management and planning for climate change mitigation in Hawaii, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. 

He also served as a consultant to the U.N. Development Planning agency, the Asia Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, China-UNICEF, the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, and state agencies in Hawaii.

‘Inspiring leadership and vision’

Friends and colleagues say Kem was an exceptional teacher who created optimal conditions for his students to learn and solve problems. He was an expert in environmental policy and coastal zone management, evaluation, and mediation/facilitation for conflict resolution, notes Priyam Das, chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

“His brand of inspiring leadership and vision as the department chair and colleague, mentorship of a generation of urban planners and scholars, and tireless efforts to sharpen minds and build communities of practice in Hawai‘i and globally will continue to enrich those whose lives he touched,” says Das. 

A legacy of learning

His legacy will live on with the Dr. Kem Lowry Scholarship Endowment for graduate students at UH Mānoa studying environmental planning, natural resource management, evaluation and, or, conflict resolution at UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences.

The scholarship was endowed with a $100,000 gift from Kem’s wife of 50 years, Junko, and their son, Cameron, daughter-in-law, Tori, and granddaughter, Aya Lowry, and many of his friends and colleagues. Kem is also survived by his two sisters, Susan and Lynne, and brothers Jim and Stuart.

“The Dr. Kem Lowry Scholarship will honor his legacy by supporting students as they prepare for a career in urban planning and related fields,” says Das. “We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the Lowry family and the donors.”

Kem willed his body to the UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Willed Body Program, a gift of learning for Hawaiʻi’s future doctors.  His remains will be scattered in the Pacific Ocean and mountains of Hawaiʻi he so loved.

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.