THEIR TAKE ON GIVING: OWENS ’93 AND AARON ’10 TELL WHY THEY SUPPORT THE HIVE
Chandler Owens ‘93 was a freshman when his sister, Shirlitha, then a student at Benedictine Academy, died of leukemia. Owens remembers her funeral and the students from St. Benedict’s who accompanied Headmaster Fr. Edwin to the service. That support for his family has stayed with him ever since.
In 1995, Owens’ parents, Bishop Chandler David Owens, Sr., a national figure in the Church of God in Christ, and Shirley Owens, established a scholarship in their daughter’s name at Benedictine Academy – the scholarship would provide annual tuition for four girls who demonstrated financial need and reflect a love of learning by seeking assistance if needed. Since Bishop Owens’ death in 2011, his son has overseen the scholarship.
Chandler had grown up in Newark. His father was the pastor and then Bishop of the Wells Cathedral of C.O.G.I.C. on MLK Blvd in Newark, just down the street from St. Benedict’s. At Benedict’s he said he was a “middling student” but remembers his English classes with the late Bill Petrick that inspired him to major in English and creative writing. Owens, now a successful writer, film producer, entrepreneur and investor, graduated from Marist College (NY) and earned an M.A. in film from Columbia University School of the Arts.
He has lived and worked around the country and now lives in Georgia. But he was at the 2018 Hall of Fame dinner where the 1993 Fencing Team was inducted when he first spoke with Advancement Officer Farad Lowther ’10. As their relationship developed, Lowther encouraged him to start a similar scholarship for the Boys Prep Division. And when Benedictine Academy closed and the Girls Prep Division opened at Benedict’s, Owens transferred the scholarship to the Girls Division.
Lowther is grateful not only for Chandler’s generosity and loyalty to The Hive, but also for what he represents. “We don’t have many young, black men capable of paying tuition for three young ladies over five years, “ Lowther said. “And after committing to the girls’ scholarship, he immediately told me he wanted to do the same for our young men. I have thanked him so many times for his commitment to our mission.”
Lowther’s connection with younger alumni also resulted in a significant commitment from his classmate, financial planner and founder of Aaron Financial, Matt Aaron ’10. A 2014 graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C., who majored in marketing, Aaron is a licensed CFP, RICP (Retirement Income Certified Professional) and ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant). Recently married to fellow Howard alumna, Christian Brown, and living in Washington D.C., Aaron looked back on his Benedict’s experience as life altering.
“I grew up in Irvington, and when you grow up in an inner city, you don’t know what is possible because you have not been exposed to it,” he said. A member of the wrestling team, he remembers traveling to places that opened his eyes to a bigger world. And at Benedict’s, he also saw kids who had much less than he did.
“Benedict’s gave me the opportunity to have ownership over my decisions, and even pay for the consequences.” he laughed. “Luckily, I was so busy at school, I had no time to get involved with kids in my neighborhood – some of whom are now in jail or even dead.”
Aaron credits Lowther for holding him accountable for contributing to Benedict’s. “He challenged me to want to do more,” he said. “He knows I’m competitive; Farad’s a motivator.”
Aaron encourages younger alumni to contribute to Benedict’s – “first, pay themselves by saving and then give to Benedict’s.”
He said it should not be about the amount but rather about first steps. Young men like him who are pushing forward, can still take action, take a first step. ”You have to have a belief,” Aaron said. “If you believe St. Benedict’s did something for you, you should give back.”
--By Noreen Connolly