by Greg Chandler
Converting photographs into a digital format might seem tedious to some, but Avery Lowe embraces the job as much as she does running for Hope College.
Over the summer, the senior from North Muskegon, Michigan (North Muskegon HS) digitized several thousand photos into the collection of the Joint Archives of Holland. It's just the latest work she has done on behalf of the archives, which houses archival materials for the college, Western Theological Seminary, and local municipalities.
"This is pretty uneventful work, but I know it'll be such a great resource for the archives once this collection is digitized," says Lowe, a history major and one of the leaders for this fall's nationally ranked Flying Dutch women's cross country team.
Lowe has worked at the Joint Archives since her sophomore year in college. In addition to digitizing photographs, she has done research on past events in Holland and written about them for the Archives Quarterly.
Last summer, Lowe was part of a team of students who created a website tied to the 100th anniversary of World War I and events that occurred in Holland and on campus during that wartime period.
Dr. Jeanne Petit, the chair of the Hope College History Department who oversaw the project, selected Lowe to be part of the research team based on her strong interest in history and success in the classroom.
"What I discovered is that she is a tenacious and self-directed researcher," said Petit, who also is a professor of history. "I gave her some guidance at the beginning, and she enthusiastically dug into a wide variety of archival sources and dug up some fascinating stories — dealing with topics from women's suffrage to the sugar beet industry. Every few days a new, a fascinating story that she had pieced together would pop into my inbox. She contributed to many different parts of the website."
One interesting story Lowe uncovered in her research was a debate over whether it was proper to display the American flag in a house of worship. The pastor of one congregation near campus refused to display the flag in his sanctuary, sparking controversy in the community.
"Avery told the story with sensitivity and considered different sides of the debate," Dr. Petit said.
Lowe carries that tenacity as a student and researcher into her running. She is expected to be a key contributor to a Hope team that is pursuing its fourth consecutive Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. She has made the MIAA Academic Honor Roll as a junior, sophomore, and freshman.
"Avery leads with a confident and steady passion in all she does," head coach Mark Northuis said. "The quality of her historical publications and overall academic and athletic resume reflects her ability to do multiple things well and help others' achieve improvements along the way. She helps others understand what it takes to excel and become a champion."
A year ago, Lowe was a second-team All-MIAA selection in cross country, finishing eighth at the conference championship meet at Adrian with a time of 22:29.3.
She also was a member of the Flying Dutch indoor and outdoor track & field teams that claimed MIAA titles last season.
Hope has been ranked in the Top 10 of the past two United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA Division III polls.
"This season is all about moving forward with the team. We'd love to win conference and regionals again, and hope to improve our ranking at nationals," Lowe said. "For myself, I'm working on getting out of my own head, believing in myself more, and just giving it my all in my last season."
Lowe says one of the keys for the Flying Dutch this season is running hard together
"I know that this group of girls are such dedicated, hard workers, and we really want to see each other succeed. I think this could be a really special season for us and I'm so excited to see what we can do," she said.
After graduation from Hope next spring, Lowe plans to take a gap year before pursuing a graduate degree in museum curating. But she's not planning to hang up her running shoes anytime soon.
"I'm going to start training for a marathon to keep in shape, and if there's any way I could still help out with Hope cross country, I'd certainly like to be a part of that," she said.