Irene Lovewell, a retired longtime staff member whose tenure at Cal Poly Pomona began when it was an all-male college, died July 20. She was 102.
Lovewell began working at Cal Poly Pomona in 1958 in Admissions and Records. She helped develop the evaluations department and later served as the evaluations officer and Registrar.
While at Cal Poly Pomona, she was actively involved with student organizations and Rose Float. Lovewell served on the board of the Cal Poly Pomona Federal Credit Union in the 1970s and 1980s.
Current board member David Perez knew Lovewell when he was a student and wrote in an email that she was very supportive of the Mexican American Students Association events. Lovewell was involved in the association’s inaugural Cross Cultural Retreat.
“She encouraged many of us in the 1980s, as young EOP Latinos and African Americans, to never give in and never give up on our academic struggles,” Perez said. “Irene encouraged us to succeed.”
Ron Simons (‘64, agronomy), affectionately referred to as “Mr. Cal Poly,” met Lovewell 61 years ago when he first arrived at the university and credits her as one of the people who helped him make it through to graduation.
“What a wonderful person,” he said. “Knowing Irene was a special gift.”
Lovewell was born in Butte, Montana. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho. A singer with a soprano voice, she planned to audition for the MET Opera in New York City, but World War II broke out and she met and married her late husband, John Henry Lovewell. After he died in a car accident, she relocated to California with her two daughters, Marylynn and Susan, who are both Cal Poly Pomona graduates.
Marylynn Patrich describes her mother as loving, protective and kind, and recalls how dedicated Lovewell was to her work and the university.
“The people were so generous to her when she first started there,” Patrich said. “Mom is the kind of person that if you give her a task, she goes 100 percent.”
Barbara Bean, the Cal Poly Pomona Federal Credit Union’s president and chief executive officer, said Lovewell attended the credit union’s annual meetings well into her 90s.
“On the day of the meeting, I usually asked her, ‘How did you get here?’ When she told me she drove herself, all I could think of was I hope I was still driving at 95 and 96 and 97,” Bean said. “I remember she was so proud that they had issued her a license that was good until she was 100.”
After retiring, the avid bridge player became active in Pace Setters, the organization for retired faculty and staff. The lifetime member was president of Pace Setters from 1998-2000 and later served as board secretary. She received the university’s Outstanding Emeritus Staff Award in 2000.
“Irene was such a gracious person whose leadership and commitment to Pace Setters was inspirational to all of us,” said Kathleen Harcharik, president of Pace Setters. “She was a true joy to know.”
Lovewell is survived by her daughters, Marylynn Patrich and Susan Abrahams; her granddaughter, Sara Abrahams; and a host of cousins in Idaho and Washington.