Mr. Rowan, Unveiled
University honors benefactor with sculpture at Savitz Hall.
Also present was world-renown sculptor Zenos Frudakis, of Glenside Pa., who crafted that statue. The sculpture was cast at Laran Bronze, Chester, Pa., the foundry that used a furnace made by Mr. Rowan’s own Burlington County-based firm on the piece. (See photos of statue at foundry.)
An important day
“Visionary men do visionary things,” said Dr. Ali Houshmand, president of Rowan University in an opening tribute to Mr. Rowan. "What they do is they see the future beyond what average people . . . do.”
For the hundreds who packed two floors of Savitz and surrounded the sculpture for the unveiling, including board members, faculty and staff, students, alumni, neighbors and friends — and for generations of students past and future — Henry Rowan is indeed a philanthropist and much more. He is a game changer. Twenty years after the Rowan Gift, the generosity and vision of Henry and Betty Rowan still are being felt across campus and across South Jersey.
Punctuated with applause, cheers and more than a few tears, the program and unveiling was a big event for the Rowan campus. It was a big event for three generations of the Rowan family who attended as well.
“This is a memorable day for all of us,” said Virginia Rowan Smith, daughter of Henry and Betty Rowan and a member of the Rowan University Board of Trustees, acknowledging “a statute that pays tribute to one man’s legacy.”
Making a difference
Smith talked about her father’s approach to business and to life. In making the gift, she said, “He wanted to make a difference in undergraduate education, especially in engineering. He used to say, ‘This country doesn’t need any more engineers. It needs more great engineers.’”
“I have been very proud,” she added of what the gift has accomplished. “It is a remarkable legacy.”
Students dressed in Rowan garb and many University faculty, staff and administrators who worked at the school circa 1992 paid homage to the man who started making industrial furnaces in his basement and went on to build the leading firm in its field and to change the face of education in South Jersey.
Twenty years ago, the announcement of the Rowan Gift during a university-wide gathering startled and excited the campus. News of that $100 million gift by a couple who had no ties to GSC also reverberated throughout the higher education and philanthropic communities nationwide. This was a first. No one had ever made so large a gift to a public school. The Rowan Gift would go on to trigger changes in Glassboro and across the country, encouraging more donations to public higher education as well as private.
A new college
The most visible change on campus — at least in the early years after the gift — was the founding of Rowan University’s College of Engineering, housed in a four-story building off Bowe Boulevard named for Mr. Rowan that includes a state-of-the art auditorium named for the late Mrs. Rowan.
It was a fitting change. When they made the donation, the Rowans had one major request: they wanted the college known primarily for teacher education up until then to create a program that revolutionized engineering education.
With remarkable success the institution honored the request by Mr. Rowan, an engineering graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The College implemented a new approach to engineering education — starting students in hands-on projects from day one of their academic career in what are called “engineering clinics.”
Almost from the start, the College earned attention, from high rankings by U.S. News & World Report (Chemical Engineering is currently third in the nation among schools that primarily offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees) to students leading teams volunteering in developing countries on water and road projects to faculty spreading the word about Rowan’s “hands-on, minds-on” education in places as far off as Kazakhstan.
The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Navy, state organizations, Fortune 500 companies and local businesses have sponsored research at the college. Professors lead national and international professional groups. Students land jobs across the nation and enter premier engineering graduate programs, from Penn State to Stanford.
A major transformation
The impact of the Rowan Gift did not stop with engineering programs, however.
“The gift has now positioned us to be the prominent (higher education) institution in southern New Jersey,” Houshmand said. “Mr. Rowan’s contribution will impact the lives of a great many . . . more than we can ever count.”
Added Rowan University Board of Trustees chairman Linda Rohrer, “It’s not just about writing a check, it’s about making a difference,” she said. “It took a lot of guts for Henry and Betty Rowan to pledge their $100 million. Henry Rowan . . . knew he could make a difference here.”
Today, directly or indirectly thanks to what the Rowans set in motion, the University:
- Co-founded Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
- Plans to incorporate the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, N.J., which will make Rowan only the second school in the nation with both M.D.- and D.O.-granting medical schools under its aegis.
- Attained state research status, becoming only the second public comprehensive university in New Jersey.
- Anticipates creating a College of Health Sciences in Camden, N.J., in collaboration with Rutgers-Camden.
- Founded the South Jersey Technology Park.
- Inspired numerous new donors to contribute to Rowan University, many at the $1 million and higher level.
- Partnered on the $300-million Rowan Boulevard redevelopment project with the Borough of Glassboro and private developers.
Henry Rowan is pleased.
“I hope others see what we’ve accomplished at the University and follow with their own support,” he recently said. “When I visited in 1991, I knew it was a college with good fundamentals and hard-working people. We provided the means to improve opportunities and raise standards. I’m pleased to see how everyone has responded to the challenge. It’s a fine institution, well regarded.”