By Emily Johns
Dr. Maureen Lowe remembers walking through Checkpoint Charlie as a college senior, and reminding herself not to smile. On that cold December day in 1982, less than a decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall, she marveled at the famous passage between West and East Berlin. Military men and police roamed the empty streets of East Berlin.
"It just had this kind of gray, drab feeling to it," she recalled 25 years later, while sitting at her desk at St. Paul's Regions Hospital.
Lowe returned to East Berlin in 1990 after graduating from medical school, as the city was opening up. "It was like somebody had just pulled the curtain open," she said, "and everybody felt like they could say what they felt, talk how they wanted, and they didn't have to look over their shoulder."
Lowe, a 1983 History alumnus, is now a staff pathologist at Regions. She spends much of her day in a laboratory, looking through a microscope and making diagnoses. While her visits to East Berlin as a young woman seemingly have little in common with her day job, they both represent something she has been doing as a student of history, a doctor, and a mother: Watching things change.
In the lab, she looks at slides to diagnose things such as cancer. She's also the director of quality for the lab, making sure that slides don't get lost and that the lab follows all the various hospital and legal rules and regulations. Her strengths lie in looking for patterns, she said, and having a good visual sense of when something is going wrong.
"Not just having a history degree, but a liberal arts degree, has helped me," she pointed out. "I'm a better problem solver. I don't just look at things in black and white."
As a child in Mendota Heights, Lowe went with her father to the University of Minnesota campus for football games and concerts. She remembers being fascinated with the old buildings, and wondering about the stories of the men that saw the empty land on the Mississippi and pictured a university in its place.
As a freshman in 1979, Lowe signed up for her first history course on a lark. She'd been taking science classes with the idea of becoming a veterinarian or doctor, but wanted to take something "for fun."
"Some people say history is boring," she said. "But I really like the stories. People behave the same as they always have, and the way leaders behave doesn't change that much either. You have to understand where people are coming from."
Now, Lowe and her husband Carl McGary, who is also a pathologist, spend most of their time going to concerts and sporting events in the area. They also devote a considerable amount of time to their two daughters, ages 10 and 8, and watching them grow and change.