Former Freescale CEO Gregg Lowe and his wife, Diana, have pledged a $1 million matching donation to Breakthrough Austin, a nonprofit that helps low-income students in Central Texas become first-generation college students.
“Being the first in my family to graduate from a university opened my life to numerous possibilities,” Diana Lowe said. “I want to open that doorway to success to many more kids throughout Central Texas to help them reach their potential and achieve their dreams.”
With their matching donation, the Lowes hope to help the nonprofit raise $2 million, which would increase the number of students the group can help by 600.
Breakthrough Austin, which was founded in 2001, makes a 12-year commitment to students and provides them the resources and support to succeed in school and go to college. It serves 1,090 students in Austin and Manor and over the past three years has seen all of its students graduate from high school, compared with the 83 percent high school graduation rate among low-income students in Central Texas, according to the group.
Last year, more than 90 percent of the students in the program enrolled in college directly after graduation, compared with the 44 percent of low-income students in Central Texas who do so outside of the program, the group said.
“My wife and I have always been big supporters of education and think education is the path and tool kids need to achieve their great potential,” Gregg Lowe said. “(Breakthrough Austin) is an incredible organization that gives kids an opportunity to see and realize their full potential.”
The donation isn’t the Lowes’ first to the nonprofit. In 2014, they endowed a $1.6 million scholarship fund for Breakthrough students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, an Indiana college that has been ranked the best undergraduate engineering school 16 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report’s college guide.
As the former head of a technology company, Gregg Lowe said he understands the importance of studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially for low-income students.
“One of the statistics Breakthrough talks about is that kids who are first in their families to go to college, only 6 percent of them end up going,” he said. “Two-thirds of the jobs in Austin require a higher education degree. So they’re not going to be able to participate in Austin’s wonderful economy if they don’t have higher education.”
For Diana Lowe, who is a member of the nonprofit’s board, the connection is even closer. She was a first-generation college student and credits her mentor, a 10th-grade English teacher, for pushing her to pursue higher education.
“Diana talks about it all the time; she looks at these kids and sees herself,” Gregg Lowe said. “Someone gave her an extra hand and a little bit of guidance, so she feels almost an obligation to give back.”
On top of their two large donations, the Lowes also help the group in other ways, said Michael Griffith, the nonprofit’s executive director. They’ve held fundraisers for the group at their home and, while he led Freescale, Gregg Lowe offered internships to Breakthrough Austin students.
“They’re generous and thoughtful,” Griffith said. “They back up their giving with their actions and their words. It’s not an exaggeration to say they have been transformational to this organization.”