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Ceremony celebrates million-dollar pledge to College of Business

Bedecked in robes with colorful gonfalons reminiscent of medieval coats of arms, faculty and administrators celebrated a $1 million donation to the William G. Rohrer College of Business October 14 with an investiture ceremony for an endowed professorial chair.

The gift from Ann C. “Buffy” Campbell, in honor of her late husband, memorializes the vision and character of John B. Campbell, a business leader who helmed the family’s Salem-based flooring company for more than 40 years.

Founded in 1915, Mannington Mills has deep ties to Rowan University including an endowment of $1.5 million in 2000 that helped build the Keith and Shirley Campbell Library.

The investiture ceremony, which honored Mrs. Campbell and the first endowed professor in the College of Business, Dr. Gulser Meric, was only the second in the University’s history. The first was held in September 2008 to honor Diana King, president and chair of The Charles & Lucille King Family Foundation, which donated $1 million to fund an endowed chair in the College of Communication, and Professor Michael Donovan, the first endowed professor.

“State colleges and universities are not the kind of places you normally have endowed chairs,” said Rowan President Donald Farish, who said endowed chairs are common in the Ivy League. “But endowed chairs give us an edge. The endowment augments the salary of the endowed professor and provides opportunities to augment the classroom experience.”

Noting the Campbell family’s previous gift, and its longstanding relationship with Rowan, Dr. Farish said, “this is one more example of the generosity of this wonderful family.”

The pageantry and procession that began the ceremony left the several hundred onlookers in the Eynon Ballroom “almost funereal,” Dr. Farish said, but considering the joy of the occasion he implored them to lighten up.

“It’s great that we have these kinds of events!” he said.

The program included a five-minute video of Mrs. Campbell and what she hoped, in the memory of her beloved late husband, the endowment can do.

Mr. Campbell, of Salem, died at age 75 in 1998. He was the former president and chairman of Mannington Mills, the third generation to run the family firm started by his grandfather. He attended Dartmouth College and the Marines Officers Candidate School and took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima during World War II. After the war he helped shape Mannington Mills into a leader in the flooring industry and became a strong advocate for — and generous donor to — numerous organizations in Salem County.

“Johnny was a consummate businessman,” Mrs. Campbell said following the film. “He was a visionary, but also very pragmatic… smart, generous and determined – qualities I would like to see in Rohrer Business students.”

A professor of finance, Dr. Meric earned her B.A. in finance and economics from Ankara University in Turkey and did post-doctoral work in financial management at Lehigh University. She joined the Rowan faculty in 1987 and became a full professor in 1994.

“The Rohrer College of Business takes great pride in its faculty and this is truly an honor for me,” Dr. Meric told Mrs. Campbell. “Thank you. Your gift and the legacy of your husband will continue to propel the Rohrer College of Business.”

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