What has set Lowell apart and allowed it to survive and thrive over the past four decades where other old mill cities have flailed is a strong, dedicated group of visionary leaders.
The continued success of Lowell as it continues its evolution, hinges not only on the city’s emerging young leaders nurturing new ideas, but in their willingness to study the work of those who have come before them.
Thursday night is the perfect time to do just that.
On Thursday November 15 at 7 p.m., all are invited to the Whistler House Museum of Art’s Parker Gallery to remember, learn about and celebrate the life and work of Peter Stamas. The event was organized by Peter’s great nephew James Ostis, a member of Lowell’s emergent generation of leaders.
Stamas died 10 years ago, but his legacy lives on all around us – in education, culture, charity, and overall quality of life in Lowell.
Peter Stamas was born in 1930 in Lowell’s then-predominantly Greek and Syrian Acre neighborhood, the youngest of eight children born to Greek immigrants.
It was in the Acre that he learned the value of hard work and of community. On Saturdays the children swept the hallways and stairways of the tenement buildings, while the men swept the sidewalks and streets and the women bleached the porches. They did not have much money, but they had pride.
A member of the Lowell High School class of 1947, Peter went on to earn a degree in biology from Harvard University and served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Korean War.
He delved into the world of education in 1961, taking a job teaching Math at Dracut High School. He quickly rose to a place of leadership, becoming the Chairman of the Math Department and President of the Dracut Teachers Association.
Peter Stamas was named Headmaster of Lowell High School in 1975, after just one year as sub-master
It was a pivotal point in the school’s history. It was on the verge of losing accreditation, mostly due to its physical space limitations.
Stamas oversaw the construction of the addition to LHS in 1980.
And, as a first-generation American himself, Stamas acted as a champion for newly arrived Southeast Asian members of the community, assisting them in integrating into Lowell High School.
Co-founder of the Human Services Corporation and the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, and an early proponent of the Lowell National Historical Park, Stamas treated everyone with respect and compassion, using his sense of humor and easy-going style to navigate through difficult situations.
“Because Peter has an easy manner and a wonderful sense of humor, in addition to substantial skills, he relates well to faculty, other professionals in the school system, parents and above all the public. The public believes him when he explains rationale for decisions; teachers and principals respect him and parents trust him,” M. Virginia Biggy, the Dean of Education at the University of Lowell wrote in a 1984 letter. “Clearly he would enjoy few of these relationships if he were not a bright, sensitive, thoughtful creative professional.”
Stamas served as the Headmaster at LHS until 1991; then until his “retirement” in 1997 was a “project director” for the School Department, working on a variety of issues including desegregation of the schools and anything else that came his way.
“The changes and the advances (in the schools) have been amazing,” Stamas told The Sun upon his retirement. “People look at us as a model. I don’t think we should allow this progress to be derailed over mundane and insignificant items.”
Today Lowell High School’s Library is named in his honor.
“In old-fashioned terms, he was a scholar and a gentleman,” Bill Samaras, who succeeded Stamas as Headmaster said in 2002. “He was a mentor. He was a mentor to literally everybody in the school department.”
Peter Stamas, known as “Poti” to his extensive family of nieces, nephews and godchildren died in 2002 following a battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig ’s disease).
Remembering Peter Stamas: A Celebration of Community and Service is a presentation of the Moses Greeley Parker Lectures, the Hellenic Heritage and Culture Society, Greater Lowell Community Foundation and the Lowell Heritage Partnership.”
Speakers will include William “Bill” Samaras, Marie Sweeney, Linda Sou, James Ostis, and others. The program will include a short film about the Human Services Corporation of Lowell, which Peter helped establish with Dr Patrick J. Mogan and others, and later led for many years. A panel of younger leaders in Lowell will reflect on the example Peter gave to us.