Angelika, (left) and Makayla Lowder are the third and fourth siblings in their Germany-based family to graduate from FAMU..
By Curtis Bataille
Like the other 1,100 Spring 2020 Florida A&M University graduates, twins Angelika and Makayla Lowder had a novel commencement experience.
It was the University’s first ever Virtual Ceremony. But for the Lowder twins and their siblings, FAMU commencement ceremonies have become a family tradition.
The twins are the third and fourth siblings to graduate from FAMU. They followed in the footsteps of older siblings, Tiffany and Joshua Lowder. Another older brother, John, attended Florida State University (FSU). All five siblings transferred from Tallahassee Community College (TCC).
“FAMU means so much to us, especially since we established a tradition that started with us as siblings,” said Angelika, a graduate of the College of Science and Technology. “The first word that comes to mind is FAMUly, because the University became a second family to us, as we matriculated in four different colleges within the University.”
The Lowders’ is unlikely but poignant FAMU story.
Their mother Deborah Lowder teaches at a U.S Defense Department school in Germany. A native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, she graduated from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. Their dad, John Lowder, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., is retired from the U.S. Army. The North Carolina A&T University graduate is a pastor.
The two oldest siblings, Tiffany and John, were born in Wiesbaden, Germany. Brother Joshua, Makayla, and Angelika were born in Landstuhl, Germany.
Although the twins and their older siblings had lived in Germany for their entire lives, their parents wanted them to continue their education in the United States.
FAMU became an ideal school after the parents met Bethel Missionary Baptist Pastor, the Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., in 2005. At the time, Holmes was visiting Ramstein, Germany, in his role as president of the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education. He promised to assist the Lowder children with their transition to American life if they came to Tallahassee.
“They are extraordinary young people,” said Holmes, who interacts with the Lowders as members of his congregation. “It was their parents’ dream to have them come to Florida, specifically Tallahassee, to attend FAMU.”
After initially leaving Tuskegee University to return home and help their ill father, Tiffany, the oldest daughter, transferred to TCC, as her brother John, was about to head to Tallahassee.
Deciding to carry on the tradition, brother Joshua and the twins followed Tiffany to FAMU. Soon, what was once an obscure town was now a second home for their family. All five siblings first attended Tallahassee Community College.
Since becoming Rattlers, both Makayla and Angelika have been active in various on-campus clubs and organizations. Angelika was a member of Black Women in Medicine, Biology Student Organization, and Phi Sigma Theta Honor Society; while Makayla was a member of Health Physical Education and Recreation Club. Together, the twins were also members of the National Society of Leadership and Success, the National Council of Negro Women-FAMU Section, and the Transfer Student Association.
Despite COVID-19 preventing the siblings from celebrating in a traditional commencement ceremony with their friends, family, and classmates, the Lowders are able to see the silver lining.
“COVID-19 put a delay on us physically celebrating our accomplishments together as a family. Due to the lockdown restrictions, our parents and older sister could not be here to celebrate with us in person. Yet, FAMU’s decision to host pre-Graduation ceremonies virtually allowed our family to attend my Apple Pinning Ceremony,” said Makayla, a graduate of the College of Education. “The virtual commencement was neat because we graduated on the same day, under normal circumstances our graduation would fall on different days.”
Joshua Lowder, who studied broadcast journalism at FAMU, continued to the master’s in Sports Management program ; he also works in the Center for Disability, Access, and Resources (CeDAR). John Lowder, plans to enroll in the Graduate Studies Program in the fall. Tiffany Lowder is pursuing her master’s in legislative affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
This fall, Makayla plans to begin the FAMU master’s in Sport Management program. It’s the next step toward her ultimate goal of owning a sports and recreation facility.
“FAMU helped me find my voice, become self-confident, and self-efficient,” she said. “I learned how to be a leader at FAMU.”
Angelika plans to attend medical school to become a pediatric physician. She hopes to specialize in treating children with disabilities and neurological and cardiovascular disorders.
“FAMU will always hold a special place in our hearts,” said Angelika. “Each college provided us with the support we needed and allowed us the opportunity to learn, grow, give back, build lasting friendships, network, and prepare us for the next phase in our lives.”