Neil Low knows that going back to college when you’re working and raising a family can be difficult. It took him eight years to graduate from the University of Washington Bothell.
Stick with the struggle, advises Low, recipient of UW Bothell’s 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award. “I am so glad I went back to get that education,” he said.
His 2003 degree in Liberal Studies helped Low, then an officer with the Seattle Police Department, advance to the rank of captain. UW Bothell also gave him skills he has used in writing a series of detective novels.
An ethos of service
Low retired from the department in 2018 — 50 years after he became a police cadet. Even now, when Low hears news of a shooting or a major incident in Seattle, such as the recent crane collapse, he’s tempted to call dispatch and offer to help.
“That’s the nature of our business. We are helpers,” he said. “I still have the urge, but I don’t get to go there anymore.”
During his long tenure with the police, he took a two-year leave during the Vietnam War to serve in the Navy. Other service includes a 2012-13 stint as a trustee with the UW Alumni Association, representing UW Bothell.
The UW Bothell Alumni Council selected Low for its award in acknowledgement of lifetime achievements.
“We honor your many years of service with the Seattle Police Department and your success as a published author,” said Curtis Takahashi, the council’s awards and recognition chair.
The value of learning
Low said he can’t emphasize the impact of his education enough. Not only did it boost his career and teach him how to write, it taught him how to keep learning.
“I learned critical thinking and how to teach myself new things,” Low said. “I know how to read books. I know how to write books. I know how to watch movies better. I know how to watch the news and critically think about it.”
To date, Low has had seven novels published — and the first three were written in his favorite nook in the campus library. Due out this summer, his eighth book, “Crazy Love,” is a fictionalized version of the death of Kurt Cobain. As someone who held the shotgun and analyzed the suicide note, Low said, he has insights into the investigation that have not yet come to light.
For his own graduation, Low initially didn’t plan to take part in the commencement ceremony. He changed his mind, however, and walked in cap and gown to inspire his daughters. All three went to college.
Now being recognized at commencement prompted Low to think what advice he would give new graduates, and it’s this:
“Stay tuned into life and always be a student, no matter what else you're doing, even long after you've graduated. Read voraciously and fill your head with new information and new ideas. Examine those you think at first blush you might disagree with. Take adult classes, volunteer where you can, get as much education as you can find.”
And lastly, “Support UW Bothell and the students coming up behind you. We all can benefit from a helping hand and a mentor.”