Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Winter 2002Kellogg School of Management
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  James H. Lowry
© Nathan Mandell
James H. Lowry

Diversity in action
One prescription for fixing corporate boards is to make sure the mix is diverse, that directors include a variety of people from outside the company, as well as women and minorities.

James H. Lowry, a vice president with the Chicago office of The Boston Consulting Group Inc. (BCG), has served on the boards of several educational institutions and as chairman of the board of the city of Chicago library system. He also has been a member of the Kellogg School Dean’s Advisory Board for the past 15 years.

Who will lead?
  Diversity in Action
  Reform demands
  Helping companies
  Governance leader

Lowry heads BCG’s work force diversity, ethnic marketing and minority business development consulting practice efforts and has taught diversity at Kellogg. He says boards would do well to seek the advice of women, minorities and others who typically have been underrepresented in their ranks.

“The question is ‘How can boards accept people who might give them the best advice in the world, but that’s not something they would expect?’” he asks.

Just as corporate directors have responsibilities to diverse constituents, so do members of the Kellogg Dean’s Advisory Board, even though the board is an informal group of top professionals whose non-binding suggestions offer the Kellogg Office of the Dean another set of insights to use, or not, when making decisions. But instead of CEOs, shareholders and employees, advisory board members consider the interests of faculty, staff, students and alums.

Lowry began his 15 years of service to Kellogg under Dean Emeritus Donald P. Jacobs, and says Jacobs’ strong leadership qualities initially attracted him to the board.

“We had this very charismatic, energetic visionary who had clear ideas of where he wanted to take the institution,” Lowry says. “He didn’t want to settle for being a second-rate business school.

“He told us where he wanted to go,” he adds. “The whole question of branding — that was something he brought to the board and involved us with.”

Lowry, who serves on the boards of both the high school and college he attended, also sees nonprofit board service as a way to say thanks to those who’ve helped him along the way.

“Part of the reason I did it — and I’ve done it for over 30 years — is that there’s a certain amount of payback,” he says.

— Kari Richardson

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University