Honorees will be celebrated in radio show on April 7

Former teacher Lowney honored for art, volunteer work; Dunn is debate co-captain, musician

“Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.” Whoever spoke those words could have been speaking specifically about the two individuals being honored by Friends of the Homer Public Library during its annual Celebration of Lifelong Learning: Deb Lowney and youth learner Larry Dunn. As a COVID-19 precaution, the celebration will not be at the library; the honorees will be featured on KBBI AM 890, 9-10 a.m., April 7.

“It should be a great radio celebration,” said FHL coordinator Cheryl Illg. In addition to Lowney and Dunn, FHL president Lyn Maslow, Homer Public Library Director David Berry and Youth Services Librarian Claudia Haines will participate.

Nominations for the Lifelong Learner celebration were submitted throughout the year. Defining “learning” in a broad sense that includes contributions to the community, the FHL board is tasked with narrowing it down to one adult and one youth.

Of Lowney, Illg said, “She is very involved in our community. She has coached, taught, helps provide quality trails, shared her talent and art in galleries and at other public events, all for the betterment of our community,”

Hired by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in 1980 to teach special education at Homer Middle School and coach girls basketball, Lowney said she “fell in love with Homer, the people, the community, the wilderness” and never considered leaving, that decision deepened after meeting and marrying Ralph Broshes. Before retiring from teaching in 1999, Lowney trained and served locally as a firefighter and emergency medical technician.

In nominating Lowney, Dave Brann, who also taught at Homer Middle School, described Lowney as an “outstanding teacher, getting both her students and her co-workers involved in their own physical fitness” and recalled how her love of sports led to her coaching both boys and girls at HMS and Homer High School.

Brann, who taught woodshop, observed Lowney’s developing interest in wood and carving tools.

“She quickly outgrew her local advisors and became proficient in completing creative wood turning projects,” Brann wrote.

As the school district’s physical therapist during the time, Lowney taught and coached at HMS, Wendy Todd wrote in her nomination, “She is always wanting to learn new motivational techniques, new ways to introduce skills and get more kids involved.”

Brann and Todd also referred to Lowney’s commitment to the development and care of local trails. Lowney currently serves as co-chair of the city’s Parks Art Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission. “Deb is passionate about this work and is always thinking about taking it to the next level,” Todd wrote.

Confessing she was “totally in shock” to be honored as a lifelong learner, Lowney said, “This definitely encourages me, as I move through this later phase of my life, to stay as connected as I possibly can … If there’s one thing that Homer does offer you, it’s the opportunity to get involved in a wide array of interests.”

Dunn is a Homer High School senior who came to Homer with his family from Aniak when Dunn was in the sixth grade.

“He is an outstanding student, talented musician, and DDF (Drama Debate Forensics) speaker/performer, not afraid of a challenge as he takes on the most difficult classes,” said Illg.

Sean Campbell, HHS English and reading teacher wrote in his nomination, “Larry epitomizes the idea of lifelong learning. He is always searching, always curious, always discovering. … He is a reader and an outstanding young person; just a delight to work with every day.”

Dunn is currently president of the HHS student council executive board, student delegate on the school’s site council, parliamentarian of the Alaska Association of Student Government Executive Board, has been on the honor roll since 2017 and is officer of the school’s National Honor Society. He’s co-captain of the school’s DDF team and won numerous awards for his debate skill. Dunn plays with the Homer High School Symphonic and Jazz Band and was eighth-chair trumpet in the 2021 Alaska All-State Band. He also volunteers with Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, the Homer Community Food Pantry and the United Methodist Church.

Dunn earned praise from Kelly Cooper while volunteering on Cooper’s 2020 campaign as a candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives.

“It wasn’t long before he became a trusted advisor and unofficial debate coach,” said Kelly. “So often, we think because of our age, we are the automatic teachers to youth. If you’ve met Larry, you know this is not to be true. He’s humble, intelligent, passionate and a natural teacher. … I couldn’t be prouder to have Larry as my friend and can’t wait to see how he shapes and improves the future for all of us.”

Dunn listed teachers Campbell and Eric Simondsen among those who have influenced his academic development. His philosophy for learning is simply “to do no harm and to do all the good you can, but essential to that is an unrelenting critical examination of yourself your beliefs, and the world around you. I think that far too many people, including myself at times, become far too comfortable in their beliefs and practices and lose that self-reflection and questioning drive that is, in my view, so indispensable.”

For more about Friends of the Homer Public Library, visit friendshomerlibrary.org.

The Celebration of Lifelong Learning is an annual event hosted by the Friends of the Homer Public Library. The event recognizes one adult and one student from the Homer community who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to acquiring new skills and sharing their knowledge with others. Nominations for the awards are accepted in March and the winners are honored in early April.

McKibben Jackinsky is a retired journalist and a freelance writer living in Homer.

Youth lifelong learner Larry Dunn in a photo taken in January 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Larry Dunn)

Youth lifelong learner Larry Dunn in a photo taken in January 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Larry Dunn)