Thomas D. Lowe, 58, the director of purchashing at Howard University for the past 20 years and an employe of Howard for the past 30 years, died of cancer Thursday at his home in Washington.

Mr. Lowe, who was born in Rochester, Pa., served in the Army in World War II. While in service, he earned a bachelor's degree with highest honors at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. He later earned a master's degree in business administration at the University of Pittsburgh an also studied law there. He moved to Washington in 1948 and began his career at Howard two years later.

He worked in various aspects of business administration at the unversity and was named director of purchasing in 1960. He held that position until he died.

Mr. Lowe was a member of the Miles Memorial C.M.E. Church in Washington. He had served there as a Sunday School teacher, and as chairman of the board of trustees, chairman of the finance committee and chairman of the building committee. He also had been active in Boy Scout affairs.

He was a certified purchasing manager and a member of the National Association of Educational Buyers.

Survirors include his wife, Marion, whome he married 31 years ago, of Washington; a daughter, Gail, also of Washington; a sister, Deretha O. Lowe of Rochester, Pa.; and five brothers, Dr. Townsend G. of Los Angeles, Dr. Olympia P. of Itta Vena, Miss., Nevardia of Beaver Falls, Pa., Dr. George A. of Charlotte, N.C., and Dr. Ernest W. of Boston, Mass.