W. McNeil Lowry, who won a special Tony Award in 1963 for his support of the American theater, died June 6 of cancer at his Manhattan home.

He was 80.

Lowry, a former newspaper editor, joined the Ford Foundation in 1953. Under his guidance, it expanded its arts program, extending grants to dance and art schools, filmmakers, music conservatories and writers. He retired in 1974.

From 1988-91 he served as president of the board of the San Francisco Ballet.

Survived by his wife, Elsa, and a son.

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