Blazing Through Life
Ann Lovell was raised on generations of solid Midwestern family values, helping others in need and earning her own spending money by pulling dandelions, shoveling snow and babysitting.
She recalls growing up “in that idyllic Norman Rockwell kind of life,” the wholesome slice of Americana that the artist depicted on the covers of The Saturday Evening Post.
Ann was industrious and giving by nature. “I would babysit for free if the family couldn’t afford it. That was just what people did for each other – help your neighbor.”
Her parents, David and Lura Lovell, met at Iowa State University and married in 1951. David was a chemical engineer and they moved nine times in nine years to various plants around the country. Their first child Stephen was born in Alabama, Ann and Robert in Illinois, and Sara, the youngest, in White Plains, New York.
Ann relished long days playing in her neighborhood, occasionally getting to explore the Smithsonian museums and being enchanted by the wonders of live theatre, including “The King and I” – all before she was 10. “Those special times made a big difference in who I became and my outlook on life,” she said.
Then the family uprooted again.
David founded the Coulton Chemical Company in Ohio. “When I was 15 we moved to Sylvania, Ohio – a far stretch from the outskirts of New York City. It felt so foreign – instead of peanuts on the subway, they sold lard at the checkout counter,” she said.
“I rebelled big and bold and put my parents through hell. I protested the Vietnam War, marched for peace and was always trying to leave home.” She would climb out her second-story bedroom window and shimmy down the antenna to go to rock concerts.
Mother to Six Children
Not at all interested in college, Ann dropped out during the first semester. “I tried a lot of things. I sang with a rock band up and down the East Coast from North Carolina to the Florida Keys, worked as a lifeguard and bookkeeper by day and as a bartender and server at night.” She also worked at a Union Carbide Plant in Louisiana as an insulator.
Ann married and welcomed a daughter and a son. She worked at a municipal utility while also providing bookkeeping services to a number of small businesses. “I never worked just one job – because with one job a woman couldn’t make enough money to support a family.” With her marriage disintegrating, Ann realized that she needed to go back to college.
“My parents did the greatest thing. They told me they would give me a year’s salary so I could go back to school fulltime,” and not have to juggle raising children, taking classes and working fulltime. Ann completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona and became a certified public accountant. About twenty years ago, she and her business partner established a successful tax consulting practice.
Ann met her second husband when they and their children were participating in martial arts. Though the marriage did not last, all four of his children remained with her. “That all six of my children are so close is one of the greatest gifts,” she said.
Today Ann is a svelte, gracious, green-eyed blonde with a quick mind and seemingly endless energy for family, friends, business and worldwide philanthropy.
She was 39 when her fortunes changed. Her parents were preparing to sell the chemical companies that David had founded and led for 25 years. They planned to establish a family foundation and give away much of the money to support causes they cared about deeply.
Before the sale was completed, her father was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer and died less than two months later at the age of 66. Her mother followed through on their shared dreams for The David and Lura Lovell Foundation. Ann was involved from the start. Their original funding priorities were mental health, integrative medicine, cultural/spiritual enrichment and philanthropic education.
Both Lura and Ann were personally connected to the organizations they funded. They cultivated relationships and volunteered their expertise. Their hands-on leadership style became the hallmark of the Foundation, and has been a constant from its founding in 1994.
In 2002 Lura and Ann were instrumental in establishing and funding the 15-year Bravewell Collaborative – a pioneering national collaboration of philanthropists and physicians working together to advance integrative medicine as the most effective medical care.
Ann blossomed. Her passion, Midwestern family values, business acumen and philanthropic vision propelled her to lead. “I can’t be quiet very long. I end up the spokesperson in almost every group,” she said.
Over the years, Ann worked with many foundations and established several others to address specific needs. She expanded her vision and became involved in issues around the globe.
In 2005 Ann was invited to join the Women’s Leadership Board at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University made up of influential senior-level leaders who focus on closing gender gaps in the areas of economic opportunity, political participation, health, and education. Since then, Ann has participated in delegations to the United Kingdom, Egypt, India, Liberia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
“I realized that of all of the issues I care about, I am most passionate about equality – especially gender parity. I envision a world where women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys. Just imagine what we could do together,” she said.
Among Ann’s accomplishments:
- In 1997 she established the Valley Foundation to provide college scholarships to promising students based not on their grades but instead considering their participation in school activities, community involvement, employment and financial need. “I knew how hard it was to go back to school,” she said. “I applied for every scholarship and grant I could – but it was very, very hard to find them.”
- In 2000 she began working with Southern Arizona Grantmakers to learn more about the process of soliciting, reviewing and funding grants. The following year she chaired the organization and remains a member to this day.
- Also in 2000 Ann started serving on the grants and finance committees of the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, and is a member of the Advisory Council. In 2008 both Ann and Lura were honored by the Women’s Foundation for their ongoing philanthropy. Ann established the first donor-advised fund at the foundation.
- In 2004 she became involved with the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and has served on a number of grant and awards committees.
- In 2006 Ann was a founding board member of SVP Tucson, where philanthropists come together to use a venture capital approach to affect positive change.
Focus on Women and Girls
- In 2007 Ann participated in a delegation to Liberia with former ambassador Swanee Hunt. That pivotal trip to Africa compelled her to join the Leadership Circle of The Institute for Inclusive Security, which works with a global network of 2,000 female leaders in more than 40 conflict regions.
- Beginning in 2009, Ann traveled back to Liberia with the Foundation for Women (FFW), an organization whose mission is to eradicate poverty through micro-credit. Ann made multiple trips to Liberia and was instrumental in convening three annual All Liberian Women’s Summits to promote the participation and leadership of Liberian women. Ann serves on FFW’s advisory council.
- In 2010 she became a member of the Women Moving Millions (WMM) campaign, then helped establish WMM as a nonprofit foundation whose mission is to mobilize unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls around the globe. She has since served terms as vice chair and chair.
- In February 2013, Ann partnered with local community members and the University of Arizona to host a One Billion Rising event on the mall at the University of Arizona. This was part of a successful International campaign to promote awareness and take action to end violence against women and girls worldwide.
- In 2014 Ann brought the OpEd Project to Tucson, a program that mentors women to take leadership roles in their areas of expertise and expands the number of women thought leaders in key forums. One result is an increase in the number of OpEd articles published in the national and international press.
- In 2018 Ann co-founded the Healthy US Collaborative, whose initiative is TakeCare, a national campaign for health and wellness.
Ann blazes through life like a comet. “These things feed me. They make me come alive.”
She is often asked how to connect passion with action. Her response is a favorite quote by author, educator, theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that – because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”