Honoring a life of public service

June 10, 2021 — Fresh out of Grinnell College and eager to make his mark, the late Andy Loewi ’71 went off to Washington, D.C. and instantly was in his element.

He worked in a cramped congressional office on Capitol Hill and devoted his time to voting rights and other progressive causes, while sharing a house in Georgetown with other Grinnell grads.

Andy Loewi ‘71
    Andy Loewi ’71 
    –Photo by Barry Zigas

“It was as close to heaven as you could get for Andy,” says his friend JC Labowitz ’71, a D.C.-based attorney who has fond memories of those times. “He knew everybody, from journalists to lobbyists to other people on the Hill. In a lot of ways he lived out the dream of the 60s and 70s by influencing how things were done, first in the universe of Grinnell and later on a larger, national stage.”

Loewi passed away in 2007, and soon after his friend Barry Zigas ’73 and his wife, Jodie Levin-Epstein ’72, teamed up with Labowitz and his wife Patti Rounsevell ’71, along with and other friends of Loewi’s to establish the Andrew W. Loewi ’71 Washington D.C. Internship.

Since 2007, classmates have generously supported the fund, which provides stipends for students with summer internships in D.C. to work in a congressional office. The fund has since been expanded to provide stipends to students working for nongovernmental organizations devoted to public policy issues.

“The College has a long tradition of engaging in public service, and we’re very proud of the role the Loewi internship has played in encouraging that,” Zigas said. “Andy was very much a Grinnellian in that tradition, and the idea of using the fellowship to introduce students to public service in Washington is meant to honor his career and his passions.”

For this year’s 50th reunion, the class of 1971 Reunion Committee – which Labowitz and Mary Brooner ’71 serve on as class agent and a co-class fund director, respectively – decided to raise money in support of the Loewi Fund. The class has raised $123,455 as of June 1 of its $150,000 goal. On Scarlet & Give Back Day (April 14-15) alone, gifts totaling $40,000 were made.

Andy Loewi ‘71, and JC Labowitz ’71 are captured hanging out in a photograph during their 5-year class reunion.
Andy Loewi ‘71, and JC Labowitz ’71 are captured hanging out in a photograph during their 5-year class reunion.

“We were looking for something to do in honor of our 50th reunion, and the grants from the fund in Andy’s name were a personal experience for each of the recipients as well as for us as Andy’s classmates,” Labowitz says. “We also contribute to the Pioneer Fund but this was a means to make a tangible difference in the lives of actual, identifiable students who we could bore with Andy stories when they came to D.C.”

In the summer of 2018, Charles Carr ’19 was one of two students who went to Washington D.C. with help from the Loewi fund. “It was an invaluable complement to both my academic experience and my professional network,” said Carr in 2018 after interning for California Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “I personally learned that Grinnell has prepared me perfectly to pursue a career in public service upon graduation.”

Three students were chosen for 2021 Loewi Washington D.C. internships. Ashton Aveling ‘22 is interning with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). Zoe Mahler ’22 is interning with the Americans for the Arts Action Fund while Camila Hassler ’22 is interning for U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood.

Washington D.C.-area classmates and friends of Andy’s have hosted an annual summer BBQ for the students selected for the internship. “It’s an opportunity for students to learn about Andy and to network,” Zigas says.

“It is a great pleasure to speak with these students, who are replicating the experiences that Andy (and others among us) had in Washington during and immediately after Grinnell,” Labowitz adds. “We can only hope that the students are as inspired by Andy’s legacy as we were in our relationships with him.”

In a photo from their student days, Andy Loewi ‘71, left, John Otto ‘71, and Ed Hirsch ’72 leap from the Burling Library deck.
In a photo from their student days, Andy Loewi ‘71, left, John Otto ‘71, and Ed Hirsch ’72 leap from the Burling Library deck.

Loewi is remembered as a larger-than-life figure during a turbulent era.

“I can’t overemphasize the fact that every student on campus felt the effects of the Vietnam War,” Labowitz recalls. “Every night we’d go to the lounges and listen to Dan Rather report from the rice paddies. There were marches in Grinnell, Des Moines, and Washington. There had been the assassinations of Kennedy and King. It was an incredibly intense time and Andy was the kind of leader who could hold everyone together, despite dramatic differences of opinion on campus.”

In addition, the College was phasing out the strict separation of men and women in dorms, and some students were demanding that the curriculum be revamped. In the middle of all of that, Loewi was elected SGA president in 1970-71. In 1985, he joined the Grinnell College Board of Trustees.

“Andy was our fearless leader through curriculum reform and through Kent State and the Vietnam war issues,” Brooner says. “Andy was always the one at the helm. He galvanized everyone. It’s an immediately recognizable name to anyone in our class.”

After his seven-year stint in D.C., Loewi graduated from Harvard Law School in 1982, then moved to Denver where he was a deputy district attorney and later, an attorney at a large firm, where he ran the litigation department and then the pro bono committee. He and his wife, Pat, were married 1984, and his stepdaughter, Kim (Knous) Dolan, graduated from Grinnell in 1998. Andy and Pat adopted a daughter, Samantha, who was later diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, and Loewi made it his life’s work to support her and fundraise for research, Zigas says.

“People always smile when they think of Andy,” Brooner says. “He was well-known and respected, and I’m really pleased we’ve created this fund that will last into perpetuity. The group of family and friends who set up the internship were really speaking to Andy‘s core values of how you create change; you advocate public policy to create change.”

—by Anne Stein ’84

For your information:

Reunion year fundraising continues through June 30 for the class of 1971, the class of 1996, and the class of 2011.

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