Ken Lowe, former board chairman, president and CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive and a founding donor to the Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington (GLOW), announced on Friday night a donation of $1 million to the school.
Lowe, a longtime friend and former colleague of GLOW founder Judy Girard, gave the money in honor of his 92-year-old mother, Barbara Love Lowe, and a wing of the school will be named in her honor.
He acknowledged his mother’s “lifetime of caregiving through nursing in her rural community and then on to a second chapter of management in the banking industry,” as he made the gift to North Carolina’s only single-gender charter school.
“I have admired the mission of GLOW Academy since my friend Judy Girard first committed to its founding in 2015,” Ken Lowe said in a news release. “I have seen how these girls are thriving and are so enthusiastically supported by the Wilmington community. It is truly my privilege to honor my mother’s personal determination and commitment to education by naming a wing of GLOW Academy Lowe Hall.”
Lowe also made a contribution to name a GLOW Academy classroom in memory of Dr. Steve Martin, a mentor to him and Girard during their years together at Scripps Network.
Raised in Mount Airy, Lowe is credited with founding HGTV, which was launched in 1994 and became one of the fastest-growing channels in TV history. Lowe oversaw the acquisition and transformation of the Food Network and presided over the launches of the DIY Network and the Cooking Channel, as well as the acquisition of the Travel Channel in 2009.
He has since been inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame and N.C. Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
“Ken Lowe has always been a supporter of women and recognizes their value to any endeavor chosen,” Girard said in the release. “His mother obviously instilled in him those values, which will now get passed on to every GLOW student thanks to Ken’s generous donation.”
The Lowe announcement came as the school held its sixth annual Celebrity Chef Event, hosted by chef Robert Irvine, of the Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible series, and special guest chef Ashley Christensen, a two-time James Beard award winner from Raleigh.
The event also included virtual visits from chefs Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence, who conducted cooking demos of the courses featuring their recipes. More than 500 guests, including Lowe’s mother and other family members, attended the event, which was hosted on the courtyard of GLOW Academy’s campus.
Irvine and Christensen were aided by local chefs Christi Ferretti of Wilmington's Pine Valley Market, who serves as the chefs liaison for sourcing local ingredients and coordinating onsite logistics, and chef Lori Eaton, of Eaton at Home, who was charged with making accommodations to meals for those with special dietary needs.
Other area chefs that donated their time and talent to the event included pastry chef Rebeca Alvarado Parades of manna, former manna executive chef Jameson Chavez, executive chef James Patterson of Porter’s Neck Country Club, sous chef Robert Miller of Henry’s and Brian Groves and his team from Publix Pine Valley.
U.S. Foods was a premier sponsor of the event, donating almost the entire budget worth of food for the event, according to Ferretti, with additional produce supplemented by Henry’s. U.S. Foods also lent their local representatives and a chef specialist from Raleigh to help get the job done.
The local chefs were also assisted by Pine Valley Market’s catering staff and teen volunteers Smith Dechampes and Alex Ferretti.
Guests enjoyed appetizers prepared by Christensen, who also prepared the salad course, an iceberg lettuce wedge topped with her version of Crab Louie. The second course featured Lagasse’s Fettuccine Nero with Gulf shrimp, and the main course was prepared by Irvine and included a roasted dry-rubbed beef tenderloin, a celery and pomme puree, honey-glazed carrots and a mushroom and Gorgonzola vol au vent.
The dessert course was created by Florence and featured a pineapple upside down cake with nut brittle and black pepper whipped cream.
In addition to remarks from Lowe, Irvine and Christensen, the crowd was also addressed by Girard, board and event chair Sandy Spiers, CEO Todd Godbey and GLOW students Rosa Johnson and Victoria Roblero Mendoza.
Johnson spoke of how the culinary arts program at GLOW gave her the confidence and desire to cook for her family at home. Johnson’s mother, Sherl Johnson, also gave a speech about what Rosa’s experience at GLOW has meant to their family and Rosa’s future.
The event also included a live and silent auction to raise funds to support GLOW programs such as transportation and free or reduced meals, which are not required to be provided by charter schools in North Carolina, but which GLOW deems as necessary provisions for students.