|Les Loewe, A.B. ’42
Expressing a ‘Uniform’ Commitment to Others
If you ask Les Loewe, A.B. ’42, how he would describe his relationship with Washington University in St. Louis, he will use one word: active.
“Washington University is the most important institution in the St. Louis metropolitan area,” explains Loewe. “The research that goes on here, the great faculty, and the contributions graduates make to society are significant. I have an active interest in promoting the welfare of the school.”
Loewe has pursued that interest over the past 65 years, including more than four decades as a leader in the uniform manufacturing, linen supply, and retail industry. Together he and his late wife, Carol Wilson Loewe, B.S.B.A. ’45, contributed generously of their time, energy, and resources to benefit the students and faculty of Washington University.
A success story
A St. Louis native, Loewe took just one year to complete his last two years at University City High School. At Washington University, he was a member of the ROTC. He maintained a 2.6 GPA (on a 3.0 scale) while majoring in political science and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1942. He served during World War II as a captain in the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. In 1947, he earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University.
That same year, Loewe began a long and successful career at the St. Louis–based Angelica Corporation, at that time the largest supplier of uniforms to restaurants, hotels, and hospitals in the United States. In 1973, he was appointed executive vice president, and in 1980, he was named president and chief executive officer. He later added chairman to his title—a position he held until he retired in 1990.
Under Loewe’s leadership, Angelica expanded operations in the textile rental services industry and increased its retail stores to 300. Today, Angelica Corporation is a leading provider of textile rental and linen management services to the U.S. health-care market, and, in recent years, Angelica has eliminated its manufacturing and retail operations.
“My career at Angelica was both interesting and challenging because it was such a difficult business,” Loewe says. “We were involved in everything from textile mills to mail-order catalogs. Through the years, we acquired other companies and grew steadily. I enjoyed my work.”
In 1985, the Wall Street Transcript named him Best Chief Executive in the service industry. He also received three consecutive awards from Financial World in the services category. Loewe received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Arts & Sciences in 2002.
Loewe’s personal life matched his professional success. He and Carol were married for 53 years until her death in 2003.
A friend to the University
Loewe’s volunteer involvement at the University began in 1982 when he became friends with Murray Weidenbaum, the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor. Weidenbaum established the Center for the Study of American Business in 1975—later renamed the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy in his honor. The Weidenbaum Center supports scholarly research, public affairs programs, and other activities to address some of the most important public policy issues facing America. In addition to making numerous gifts over the years, Loewe has served on the Center’s advisory board since 2000.
“The Weidenbaum Center provides a very useful service,” Loewe says. “It brings together experts in various disciplines, including economics and government regulations. It is exciting to support the collaboration of policymakers, business leaders, and scholars as they merge academic research with public policy analysis.”
“Les Loewe is an important asset to the Center in many ways,” Weidenbaum explains. “For example, he has helped attract interest from other members of the business community. Most noteworthy is his special ability to draw on his extensive business experience and to do so in a very subtle manner. To those of us who have the pleasure of interacting with him, it seems so clear why Les is such a great success.”
Providing scholarships to deserving students is of particular interest to Loewe. He understands how the cost of higher education can prohibit gifted students from pursuing their degrees. “I believe that if you do the work you should have the opportunity to receive a quality education,” he says. Through generous life income gifts, he and Carol endowed the Leslie F. and Carol W. Loewe Scholarships in Arts & Sciences and the Olin Business School. They also established the Leslie F. and Carol W. Loewe Research Fund at the School of Medicine. Their life income gift, in honor of Susan Mackinnon, the Sydney M. Jr. and Robert H. Shoenberg Professor and chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, will help advance research at the University.
Loewe is a Life Fellow of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society and has supported many other programs at the University through his annual giving. As a Robert S. Brookings Partner, he has included endowed scholarships in Arts & Sciences in his estate plan in addition to his life income gifts.
“Les Loewe has been an extraordinarily loyal alumnus for many, many years,” says David Blasingame, executive vice chancellor for alumni and development programs. “His leadership, time, energy, and generosity have had a significantly positive impact on Washington University. His commitment has been truly inspirational.”
Known for rallying alumni and others to support the University, Loewe helped the Class of 1942 reach an impressive 65.7 percent participation rate for their 60th Reunion Class Gift. He recently established the $3 million Loewe Challenge, which will match new, renewed, and increased gifts to the Annual Fund through June 30, 2009.
“The vast majority of our alumni are successful, and much of that is due to Washington University,” Loewe says. “I want to encourage all alumni to give back. If your University experience was in any way meaningful in your life, you should give back—whatever the amount. You don’t have to give a lot.”
Carol Loewe was an enthusiastic volunteer for the University as well. In 1984, she joined the Eliot Society Membership Committee for the Olin Business School. She also served as Class Gift Chair for her 40th Reunion.
Loewe’s active interest in Washington University has taken various forms through the years—benefiting the University, faculty, and students now and for years to come. And he says he would not have it any other way.