The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn

Lois Hammersberg Lowry

Lois Hammersberg Lowry Class of 1956

Lois Hammersberg Lowry is an award-winning author of young people’s fiction.

Lois Lowry was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1937. Her father, Robert E. Hammersberg, was an officer in the U.S. military. The Hammersberg family moved from Hawaii to Brooklyn in 1939, then relocated to Pennsylvania while Robert served in World War II. Following the war, the family lived in Japan until 1950. In 1952, Lowry entered The Packer Collegiate Institute. She later attended Brown University, but she left college at nineteen years old in order to marry Donald Grey Lowry, a U.S. Navy officer.

Lois and David Lowry had four children together and moved often for his career. David Lowry eventually retired from the Navy and the family settled in Portland, Maine. There, Lowry returned to school and completed a BA in English literature before pursuing graduate studies in the field.

Lowry’s professional career began as a freelance journalist. An early article for Redbook magazine caught the eye of a Houghton Mifflin editor, who suggested that Lowry try her hand at children’s literature. Lowry took the advice and published A Summer to Die, her first book, at age forty. The novel, in which one of the main characters dies of cancer, drew upon Lowry’s own experience of having a sister die of the disease.

Since her first novel, Lowry has published more than thirty books for children. Her work has merited the prestigious Newbery Award twice, for Number the Stars (1990) and The Giver (1994).

In 2005, Lowry returned to Packer to speak with the students about her career and her time as a student at the school. In 2006 she received the Packer Alumni Award of Honor and was described at the time as one of Packer’s “most accomplished alumnae.”

Lowry credited her time at Packer for helping direct her career toward writing, noting, in particular, the influence of her high school English teacher, the Packer library, and her 1954 publication of “On Being Thirteen” in the student publication Packer Current Items.