Toggle Mobile Menu

Lovingly Giving Back

Mary Catherine Fitzhugh DowrickMary Catherine Fitzhugh Dowrick
March 23, 1945 – June 14, 2010

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

This quote was found in Cathy Dowrick’s wallet after she died, and was written on a piece of shredded paper. It seemed to be the adage by which she lived. An only child, Dowrick grew up on Virginia’s Northern Neck. She lived on the family farm where she learned a wide range of skills. She feared nothing—learned to fire rifles and won awards at local Thanksgiving turkey shoots. Dowrick and her mother later moved to McLean and then to Montross, Va., where she lived most of her teen years.

Varied influences and experiences fueled her love of cars, boats, woodworking, gardening, and most of all, sailing. Dowrick spent a great deal of time with her hobbies and approached each one with proficiency, precision and passion. Her mother was an award-winning gardener, and lessons gleaned from her mother’s expertise enriched Dowrick’s life as she gardened throughout her years.

Mary Catherine Fitzhugh DowrickDowrick went to Lynchburg College for a year but realized how much she missed home. So, she returned to Montross and volunteered in the lab at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond. It was there that a pathologist, Dr. David Moreland, took an interest in Dowrick and encouraged her to pursue a degree in medical technology. Dowrick never forgot him, and she credited Dr. Moreland with instilling in her a strong sense of mentorship. She went on to graduate in 1969 from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) with a degree in medical technology and received her master’s degree in 1972.

Dowrick worked for a while at MCV, and in 1972, she landed a job at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital where she worked until her retirement. As a supervisor, Dowrick encouraged several lab technicians to pursue their degrees, always remembering how Dr. Moreland had influenced her career, and feeling the need to pay it forward. Dowrick taught continuously in the workplace, and she found that role extremely rewarding. She always tried to find an individual’s strength, and while that individual might not be doing particularly well in a specific job, Dowrick tried to see where his or her talents could best be utilized within the organization.

In 1982, Dowrick helped form the local chapter of Clinical Laboratory Management Association. She was president and held several other positions in the Virginia Society of Medical Technology and the American Society of Medical Technology. Dowrick did research at MCV and published several papers, but was most interested in helping those whom she felt were talented enough to pursue an education in medical technology. Dowrick held several certificates in hematology and was a member of Alpha Mu Tau Fraternity.

On September 6, 1972, Dowrick was invited by Old Dominion University Vice President Charles Burgess to be an adjunct faculty member in the biology department. Courses she taught included The Evaluation of Hematologic Diseases, Bone Marrow Evaluation, Platelet Development and Disorders, Coagulation Review, and The Evaluation of Hemostasis. Dowrick enjoyed the opportunity to be a positive influence in the lives of her students at ODU, which she continued to do throughout her tenure.

BoatDowrick was small in stature, weighing only 98 pounds, but larger than life. Kathy Judge, a colleague, told Dowrick at her retirement from Sentara, “When we came into a room for a healthy debate, it was you who was able to calm everyone down.”

A saying Dowrick once found on a calendar and kept through the years probably describes her best: “People are drawn to those with a quiet inner confidence, people who don’t need to make themselves look good, be ‘right’ all the time, or steal the glory.” She was a quiet introvert who loved those around her and quietly shared that love with her family, friends and colleagues.

Dowrick left this earth much too soon, but her life set a high standard for how to “make a life by what we give” to others. She brought out the best in people and gave back by quietly sharing her wisdom, as well as her material possessions. Her legacy lives on through The Cathy Dowrick Memorial Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship will benefit ODU students who have chosen medical technology as their major. It also exemplifies what it means to “live a life by lovingly giving back.”

For more information contact Barbara M. Henley, CFRE at 757-683-6563 or or Brett A. Smiley, CFRE at 757-683-4735 or

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the materials for planning your estate.

First name is required
Last Name is required
Please include an '@' in the email address

eBrochure Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the brochure.

First name is required
Last Name is required
Please include an '@' in the email address