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At 90, Devoted MMC Alumna Reflects on a Life Well Lived—and Adventures to Come

When alumna Helen Lowe graduated in 1955, MMC was a different place: It had only recently become a four-year college and moved into its East 71st Street home. Run by sisters from the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM)—whom Helen remembers as demanding but progressive—it served female students, many of whom were encouraged to become teachers.

Still, Helen, who turned 90 on February 21, sees key similarities between the MMC she attended in the ’50s and the MMC she continues to champion and visit today as a longtime resident of the Upper East Side.

“In our day, we had wonderful professors who encouraged us to question, question, question,” she said. “MMC still has that adventurous spirit and moves with the times.”

What’s more, Helen has played an important role in helping the College uphold many of the qualities that make it unique while reaching new generations of students.

A decade after receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology, she returned to MMC as a public relations director and went on to become vice president of institutional advancement. During that time, she also received an MBA from Columbia University.

Helen would spend some 23 years at MMC, helping to expand its reach and raise money for student aid, campus improvements, and other critical resources.

“I served under Sister Colette Mahoney [MMC’s president from 1967 to 1988], who was ahead of her time and had very high standards,” Helen said. “You couldn’t give less than your best with her—ever.”

In 1991, Helen headed to Polytechnic University as vice president for institutional advancement. She later joined the Archdiocese of New York and retired in 2020 as executive director of development.

Between her long career in development and service on the boards of organizations, such as Partnership Schools, she’s raised more than $2 billion for educational and charitable causes—and gained the respect of U.S. presidents, lawmakers, and business leaders. Indeed, her 90th birthday party this month drew luminaries such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York.

Helen also introduced a pivotal figure to the College: Judith Mara Carson ’03, a well-known champion of New York City arts and culture, whom Helen encouraged to enroll in MMC’s art program. Judith would go on to become an MMC trustee, campaign chair, and honorary degree recipient. Last fall, the College debuted the Judith Mara Carson Center for Visual Arts (known affectionately as The Judy), a high-tech visual arts center made possible by a $25 million gift from The Carson Family Charitable Trust.

Still, Helen says, you don’t have to be a high-powered fundraiser like she was to make a difference. “I’d encourage MMC alums to find their old classmates, see what they’re doing, and consider banding together and figuring out ways to help the College,” she said.

At 90, Helen said she continues to see every day as a new adventure in a life full of them and hopes she has put her talent and education to good use.

“I’ve tried to live up to my capabilities,” she said. “I believe in God, and I’ve sought to live a life in praise of him or her. So, although I can’t say what the end will bring, it doesn’t really matter because I know that whatever it is, it will be brilliant.”


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Published: February 24, 2023