2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards

2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards
The Lowell High School Distinguished Alumni Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2016 honorees.

Lowell High School's Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2016


The Lowell High School Distinguished Alumni Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2016 honorees. Nominees must have graduated or attended Lowell High School a minimum of twenty years prior to be eligible.


The new inductees include:


  • Solon A. Perkins - Class of 1850
  • James C. Ayer - Class of 1854
  • Philip L. Shea - Class of 1959
  • Roger J. Landry - Class of 1988
  • Heena P. Santry - Class of 1992


The formal induction ceremony was held in the Cyrus Irish Auditorium at Lowell High School on Wednesday, November 2nd from 12:45-2:30PM.




Solon A. Perkins

Class of 1850


A descendent of John Howland of the Mayflower, Solon Perkins settled in Lowell with his parents and siblings in 1840. Following graduation from Lowell High School, Solon was hired by J.W. Paige and Company, of Boston, which served as the agent for many of the Lowell textile mills. He pursued a career as an international businessman representing the interests of the textile mills of Massachusetts.  While abroad he became fluent in both French and Spanish, skills that became invaluable during his military service in Louisiana.


Solon enlisted in the U.S. Civil War in 1862 and served in the Department of the Gulf under Benjamin Butler, a prominent Lowell lawyer and politician who was also a General in the Massachusetts militia. Solon served as Butler’s personal translator in New Orleans.


According to his Captain, “Lieutenant Solon A. Perkins, was a brave, conscientious officer, beloved by every man in the company.  He was a brave, conscientious officer who took pride in his command and constantly has in mind its welfare.”


“With fifty five men he once boldly engaged four hundred and fifty of the enemy, and routed them so badly that the leader of the Confederate force was put under arrest by superior officer for his failure. By exploits like these he has a brilliant reputation, and was pointed out in New Orleans the boldest and most successful cavalry officer in our army. In that beautiful picture gallery in which perhaps will one day gather the portraits of her heroes a high will unquestionably be assigned to our most daring dashing cavalry captain – le beau sabre – Solon A. Perkins.”


During a particular savage battle, many a brave fellow surrendered his life in the endeavor to beat back the rebel onslaught. On the morning of the fight Lieutenant Perkins received a bad wound to his arm. With great pain and difficulty he stood by his post. The fatal blow was a shot to his abdomen. Hundreds mourned his death.


Solon’s body was returned to Lowell along with the guidon of the company. The guidon flag, differs from a normal flag by the V-shape cut out of its right side. In an 1894 story in the Lowell Daily Sun, the flag was described as a sash worn by Perkins when he was killed. 151 years later a piece of that battle was found – a tattered, faded and worn flag that Perkins had flying over him or maybe worn at the time he was shot. This guidon had been everywhere that the company had been and was torn into shreds, as it appears today.


The flag was uncovered in the basement of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and will be preserved and displayed in the auditorium’s Hall of Flags.


An inscription on the thick wood framing around the flag states: “Under this flag at Clinton, La., on June 3, 1863, Solon A. Perkins was killed.”



James C. Ayer

Class of 1854


At the age of thirteen, James moved to the new city of Lowell where his uncle later became its Mayor. Following high school, James became an apprentice to Jacob Robbins, owner of a leading drug store in the city. He studied medicine with a local doctor and eventually graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a medical degree in 1860.


James was more interested in selling medicines than in practicing medicine. He devoted his principal attention to pharmaceutical chemistry and the compounding of medicines. He was able to own his own apothecary at the age of 22 years old with the help of a loan from his uncle. Partnering with his older brother Frederick Ayer, they expanded the business selling Cherry Pectoral, Cathartic Pills, Sarsaparilla, Hair Vigor and Ague Cure.


His medicines were not patented, but he distributed the formulas to druggists and physicians and sold his products around the world. The real secret to his success was advertising. He spent large sums of money a year on advertisements that promoted the benefits of his medicines with charming, whimsical illustrations. He also distributed millions of free copies of The Ayer’s Almanac that hawked his cures and in his words, the Almanac “was second in circulation only to the Bible.”


Employing more than 150 people, the J.C. Ayer Company was the second largest employer in Lowell after the mills. In one year the factory processed 325,000 pounds of drugs, 220,000 gallons of spirits and 400,000 pounds of sugar. His products sold around the world, and the factory continued to produce drugs until the 1940’s. James was an advocate for more open and fair business practices and transparency between corporations and their shareholders.


Cherry pectoral was advertised as a cure for “coughs, colds, asthma, croup, laryngitis, bronchitis, whooping cough, and consumption.” Sarsaparilla, his most popular product, was a real blessing that purifies the blood, stimulates the vital functions, and restores and preserves health. It was also recommended for jaundice, pimples, boils, female weaknesses and “lassitude and debility peculiar to the spring.”


Some of his products, such as Sarsaparilla didn’t work. Hair Vigor didn’t work. But Ague Cure contained bark from the cinchona tree-later became known as quinine and was very effective in fighting malaria. Cherry pectoral did not cure lung ailments, as advertised, but did treat symptoms of a cold, which helped patients improve.


In 1874, Ayer managed to win the Republican nomination for Congress from the district representing Lowell. He lost, because of his ‘cold manner.’


The city of Ayer, MA is named after him. James died in an insane asylum on July 3, 1878 and is interred in the Lowell Cemetery.


The guiding principle of his life was: “Undertake what you can accomplish and accomplish what you undertake.”



Philip L. Shea

Class of 1959


Phil holds the distinction of being the only Lowell elected official to serve in the Lowell City Council, the House of Representatives and the State Senate.


An “Acre” boy, Phil is a proud Lowellian who grew up in the North Common Village housing project. As one of four boys, Phil was kept grounded by his widowed Mother’s example of a strong work ethic and devotion to her children. Growing up, Phil shined shoes and caddied at Vesper Country Club. As a member of the Lowell Boys Club Boxing team, he went on to win the Silver Mittens Championship in 1953, 54, and 55. While a senior at Lowell High School, he won the Golden Glove 139 lb. championship.


Phil planned on joining the U.S. Marine Corp., but was convinced by his Mother that he should give Bentley College a try. Following her advice, he received his Associates Degree in Accounting and worked in the prestigious Boston law firm of Hale and Dorr.


In 1967, Phil returned to Lowell and began his own tax accounting business. His public service career began with his being elected to the Lowell City Council in 1969; the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972; and the Massachusetts State Senate in 1979.


While in the legislature, Shea was a key player in the federal, state, and local partnership to revitalize Lowell, a group that became known as “the delivery system.” He was responsible for legislation that created the Lowell Heritage State Park, the Massachusetts Housing Court, amending the Blue Laws to permit Sunday store openings, and establishing visitation rights for grandparents.


In 1984 Phil ran for the United States Congress and lost to Chester Atkins in what was determined as the closest Congressional race in the Country. He later served for six years as Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth under William F. Galvin and graduated from the Massachusetts Senior Executive Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government before his retirement from State service.


Phil Shea is widely recognized for developing a talented young Senate staff that through his leadership, guidance and mentoring went on to have successful public service careers of their own. Among them UMASS President Marty Meehan, Lowell City Manager Kevin Murphy,

Steve Kawa, the Chief of Staff to the Mayor of San Francisco, Former Mayor Rodney Elliott,

Assistant City Manager Kevin Coughlin, and Lowell Housing Authority Executive Director Gary Wallace.


Phil is the father of four children and the grandfather of ten. Since his retirement from state government, Phil continues to serve the people of Lowell as the city’s representative to the Lowell Transit Authority, and has been active in many charities including the Lowell Boys Club, Camp Paul for Exceptional Children, the Mental Health Association of Lowell, and the Lowell Youth Activities Program.



Roger J. Landry

Class of 1988


Roger Landry was not only the valedictorian of his graduating class he was a Carney Medalist, and three-time captain of the LHS tennis team.


Roger and his twin brother Scot attended Harvard College graduating with the class of 1992. While at Harvard, Roger experienced a call to the Roman Catholic priesthood and opted to begin seminary studies over attending medical school after graduation.


He prepared for the Roman Catholic priesthood at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, St. Philip’s Seminary in Toronto, and the North American College in Rome where he did his advanced studies in theology at the Angelicum, Gregorian and Lateran Universities and at the Medical School of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.


Roger Landry was ordained a priest in June, 1999 by then Bishop and now Cardinal Sean O’Malley. As a young priest, Roger celebrated Mass several times for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Rome and led many pilgrimage groups on tours of Saint Peter’s Basilica.


Upon his return to the United States, Roger served as a priest in parishes in Fall River, Hyannis and New Bedford. From 2005-2012, in addition to being the pastor of Saint Anthony of Padua in New Bedford, Roger was the executive editor and columnist of The Anchor newspaper, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River.


He has lectured widely on the thought of St. John Paul ll, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and regularly leads pilgrimages and retreats for priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful. He is a frequent guest on Catholic radio programs, and was the on-site color commentator for EWTN’s coverage of the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.


In 2015, Roger was appointed to serve as Attaché at the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. In that role, he represents the Catholic Church (Holy See) and shares its point of view on human rights in many of the committees and hearings at the UN. He coordinated many of the aspects of Pope Francis’ successful visit to the United States in September of 2015.


The son of Roger and Midge Landry of the Centralville section of Lowell, he is the brother of Scot (LHS 88), Greg (LHS 90) and Colleen (LHS 91) and the proud uncle of seven.



Heena P. Santry

Class of 1992


A graduate of Harvard University with a BA in Anthropology, a degree Heena was able to complete in three years owing to Advanced Placement credits earned as a Lowell High School student. Heena has long espoused the diversity she was exposed to and the education she obtained at Lowell High as keys to both her motivation to serve others through a career in trauma surgery and health services research and her success in advanced academic medicine.


Heena went on to earn her Doctor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and a Master of Science in Health Studies at the University of Chicago. Heena completed her general surgery training at the University of Chicago during which time she also studied surgical outcomes as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar. She completed advance surgical fellowships in Trauma at the Cook County Hospital Chicago and Emergency General Surgery and Surgical Critical Care at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Heena is board certified in Surgery Surgical Critical Care, and Acute Care Surgery.


Professionally, Heena is currently an Associate Professor of Surgery and Quantitative Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. As a surgeon Heena currently performs a public service by staffing Worcester’s safety net hospital, UMass Memorial, providing round –the-clock care for those with surgical emergencies and life-threatening conditions.


As a researcher, Heena is a federally funded health services researcher who studies how to deliver high quality and equitable care for patients with unexpected surgical disease and has written more than 30 peer-reviewed manuscripts and delivered numerous talks nationally on this subject. Her other professional interest include promotion of gender parity, professional development and resiliency in the surgical profession and she serves as a leader in a number of local and national organizations.


At a faculty meeting with the 5-Campus University’s new President Martin Meehan, Heena asked what the university leadership was doing to ensure that others like her “who have their roots on Father Morrisette Boulevard” are availed of every opportunity to succeed in their pursuit of a medical career.”


When profiled by the local television show Chronicle for a piece on medical school, Heena made sure the interviewer made note her alma mater Lowell High. Located prominently in the center of her office wall among her many degrees and recognitions is her Lowell High School Diploma professionally framed in velvet matte matching the school colors.


Heena resides in Shrewsbury MA with her husband Tim, 12 year old daughter Sona, 9 year old son Sunil and a lovable Cavachon Asha. In her free time, Dr. Santry enjoys blogging about complexities of being a surgeon mom while trying to stay fit and personally balanced. She is currently in training for her first full marathon.






Previous honorees include General Benjamin Butler, Jack Kerouac, Paul Tsongas, Ted Leonsis, Elinor Lipman, Herbert Zarkin ,George Behrakis, Marty Meehan, Ken Wallace, George Duncan and Milton Bradley.