Feels like the first time ...
When one enters the Price venue that houses the Benevolent Order of Elks, Lodge #1550 and looks to the left, the site is rather gender-chromatic.
It's a wall of photographs of past exalted leaders, all good, all charitable, all leaders - all men.
Now, however, a woman's picture will adorn that wall as Cynthia Lowry-Martin was elevated to leader of the lodge in an installation luncheon/ceremony on Saturday, April 3. She succeeds past ruler Arthur K. Hunsaker and follows in the footsteps of her own husband, who was leader before Hunsaker.
The Elks have only allowed women to join the organization since 1990, so to become president of a lodge is a huge progressive step for group's female population.
"I was nervous and I was excited," said Lowry-Martin of the advancement in rank to lodge leader. "It's a very special and wonderful day for both myself, my friends and my family (many of whom came to the ceremony to see this first-time event).
Lowry-Martin, a local paralegal, joined the club five years ago and has steadily risen through the ranks since.
"I joined because I like the people and the Elks do some fantastic things," she said. "Their charity programs are wonderful and they do a lot for the children and veterans of this area. I just wanted to contribute the best I could."
The Elks began as a nationwide organization in 1928, and the Elks National Foundation is the charitable arm of the BPOE.
The foundation, with an endowment valued at more than $400 million, has contributed $253.5 million toward Elks' charitable projects throughout the country.
Membership of the organization included such historical figures as Gen. John Pershing and Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, Will Rogers, Jack Benny, Lawrence Welk, Gene Autrey, Donald O'Connor and Clint Eastwood, as well as past presidents of the United States Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, John F. Kennedy and Gerald R. Ford.
"This is a great honor," said Judy Smith, District Deputy and Grand Exalted Ruler of Utah South. Smith was also one of the first women to join the Elks in Utah and four years ago became the state's first female lodge leader (Eureka Tintic Lodge #711, the oldest club in Utah).
"Ladies have had to meet and/or exceed the expectations put before them in this club. They have joined for all the right reasons and are breaking a lot of molds."
And while some males may still get their hackles up over the selection of a woman as leader, most in Lodge #1550 have no problem with the concept.
In fact, in his prayer before the lucheon, Esquire Dennis Dooley said, "For the first time, a sister assumes command of this lodge. This is a proud landmark in our history, which began in 1929."
Lowry-Martin added, "Maybe some members won't like the idea too much and it might be a little uncomfortable, but it's time. I see challenges ahead, but I do not see me being a woman as a major problem to overcome."
As proud as she is about becoming the exalted leader, Lowry-Martin is just as happy to be serving alongside her son, Juston, 23, an officer of the lodge in his own right.
"I feel great having him here," she said. "We work well together and we try to keep each other grounded."
"Installing Cynthia is truly a great honor for me," Smith added. "She will now become my co-partner. I feel such an overwhelming sense of pride and completion I can hardly express myself. I believe she will do a great job, though, and will be exceptional."