One of Illinois State’s very own rose to one of the top positions in the Secret Service.
Mark Lowery ’77, an alum of the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences, served in the Secret Service for three decades where he protected President Ronald Reagan, President George H. W. Bush, and President George W. Bush. He also helped provided security for two Olympic Games, including the Atlanta Games in 1996 that were marred by a bombing.
“I never in a million years imagined that I would be working with the Secret Service,” Lowery said.
Lowery grew up in Virden, a town of about 3,500 south of Springfield. Lowery, who played three seasons of football for the Redbirds, planned to major in accounting at Illinois State. But he ended up in law enforcement and sociology because he did not want to spend his life stuck in an office.
“Coming out of a small-town environment, Illinois State launched me into a much larger environment of working with people,” Lowery said. “We had international people. We had people out of big cities like St. Louis and Chicago. It was a great education in working with a diverse group of people. I take a lot of pride having gone there.”
After graduation, Lowery moved to St. Louis where he began his career as an officer with the St. Louis County Police Department.
In 1982 a colleague of Lowery’s told him he was applying to the Secret Service, which sparked Lowery’s interest. He soon began the yearlong application process of background checks and interviews. He was hired by the Secret Service in 1983 and placed in training.
Lowery was first assigned to the White House in 1987 with President Reagan and stayed on into President George H.W. Bush’s term in office. While not protecting the president, he had a couple of high profile assignments, among them the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
He was responsible for setting up security for five Olympic venues, including Centennial Olympic Park, which was designed to be an open venue where families could come and enjoy the Olympics without a hassle.
He had just left the Olympic Park and returned to his Atlanta hotel when a bomb exploded killing two people and injuring more than 100.
“It was unfortunate,” said Lowery. “The Olympic Park was the only venue that wasn’t set up with a sophisticated security review process. You didn’t have to have a ticket and could basically walk in without a detailed security checkpoint.”
Lowery ended his Secret Service career in charge of the Dallas field office, where he oversaw investigations into identity theft, counterfeiting, and cybercrimes, and security at President George W. Bush’s Crawford ranch.
“The level of responsibility that was placed upon me with the Secret Service was much more than I realized before I went into the job,” said Lowery. “The actual responsibility and all that goes into protecting the President of the United States is hard to comprehend until you actually have to do it.”
Lowery worked as head of security for an oil and gas company before deciding to open a private security firm called Lowery & Associates Security Consulting LLC in March 2014 in Texas.
With the skill sets he developed over his career, Lowery knows he can provide a safe environment to people in need of security whether it is security for a complex building environment, personal protection, a major event, investigations, or fraud.
“This is kind of why I retired from the Secret Service,” said Lowery. “I decided, you know what, I am going to go out there and offer this service to people who want it and need it and aren’t certain what they need and not certain where to go and who to trust. It kind of just happened. I never really thought beyond the Secret Service. I enjoyed what I did so much, and I was really good at what I did.”
Bridget Anders can be reached at bkander@IllinoisState.edu.