Building on Excellence

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Rowan broke ground for the second Engineering building—and its future—on Oct. 2.

Seven hundred or so strong they came, in various hues of College of Engineering T-shirts and in suits, some taking their very first classes at Rowan University, some graduates in their first jobs, some business and government leaders, some the people who made the very existence of the College possible.

Wednesday, Oct. 2, was a big day for Rowan Engineering, indeed a major milestone for Rowan University overall. It was the kind of day that's so important the governor of the State of New Jersey helicoptered to the area to participate and Henry Rowan, benefactor of the University, arrived with his family for a front-row view of the festivities.

On the lawn adjacent to Henry M. Rowan Hall, administrators and government leaders officially broke ground for the construction of the second building for the College, a building that will enable Rowan to double its enrollment of civil and environmental, chemical, electrical and computer, and mechanical engineering students to 2,000 in the next few years while welcoming in its early classes of biomedical engineering students.

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You can view highlights of the event in a video and slideshow.

You also can see and listen to media coverage of the groundbreaking from the Associated Press, NJ Biz, Philadelphia Inquirer, Star-Ledger, Courier-Post, Press of Atlantic City, South Jersey Times, NBC, CBS and The Whit

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Building Our Future

Funding for the building comes in large part from the recent Building Our Future Bond Act, a referendum approved by New Jersey voters last fall.

Out of the $117 million the State awarded Rowan, approximately $46 million will be dedicated to the new Engineering structure. (The remainder will be used to build new facilities for the Rohrer College of Business, renovate Rowan’s historic First Camden National Bank & Trust building and complete other facility and technology projects.)

Gov. Chris Christie spoke of the importance of the Bond Act and the recent New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, which gave Rowan state research institution status and integrated with it the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, N.J.

“This had been tried a number of times before,” Christie said, “and it had failed because people let politics get in the way of common sense.” The governor said a strong bipartisan effort made both initiatives possible, extending a verbal pat on the back to State Senate President Steve Sweeney, also a speaker at the groundbreaking.

Praises Ali Houshmand and Henry Rowan

Christie applauded Rowan President Dr. Ali Houshmand for his commitment and Henry Rowan for his generosity.

“Mr. Henry Rowan, I want to express my sincere appreciation for the enduring legacy you have created,” the governor said, standing on a platform with a backdrop of a large gold and brown banner — “Rowan University College of Engineering . . . Building on Excellence” — hanging on the façade of Rowan Hall. “The people of New Jersey are deeply indebted to you and your family.”

Henry Rowan and his late wife, Betty, made the founding of the College of Engineering possible when they donated $100 million to then-Glassboro State College in 1992.

Houshmand, leading Rowan during its many recent opportunities, was enthusiastic about what the new building and other recent initiatives mean not just to Rowan but also to higher education in general and to the economy and the State.

“Expansion of Engineering will allow us to keep these people here,” he said of the hundreds of qualified New Jersey students the program must deny seats to each year because of capacity issues. Those who stay will contribute to business and the economy in the State, he noted.

Dean Dr. Anthony Lowman was not there at the beginning of the engineering program  — he’s the third dean of the College — but his short tenure heading it has been a bit of a whirlwind. He’s excited about what the new building will mean for the College, Rowan, students and the region. “Events like this happen once or twice in the life cycle of a college. We had that first experience 20 years ago, when Henry and Betty Rowan donated the $100 million that in part created our world-class, nationally recognized engineering college. The new building and the commitment by Dr. Houshmand and the University to double our faculty will allow us to build on our excellence and become one of the top engineering colleges in the country.”

The facility

What started on Oct. 2 will end during the 2016-17 academic year. That is when the three-story, 90,500-square-foot addition to the current building will open, more than doubling classroom and lab space. The expansion will enable Rowan to further build its research program — a major commitment of the University — and work on solutions to real-world problems and the commercialization of products that grow from that research.

The project is expected to cost $71 million, and it and the new Rohrer College of Business building are projected to create more than 550 construction jobs, generate more than $180 million in economic activity and create more than 100 permanent positions in Glassboro.

Some of the people who will hold those jobs thronged in bright orange shirts to the stage’s right as six people bearing gold-plated shovels actually broke the ground for the new building on an unseasonably warm fall late afternoon. Turning over the first few clods of dirt while 200 people sat on white chairs on the expansive Rowan Hall lawn and another 500 or so stood were Lowman; Mr. Rowan; the governor; Sweeney; Houshmand; and Linda Rohrer, chairman of the Rowan University Board of Trustees.

It was, as Houshmand had said earlier,  “the most auspicious event in recent history.”

Nearby, students from the College were in place to talk about some of their projects on prominent display, such as Engineers on Wheels, which brings hands-on technology experiments to K-12 classrooms in a vibrant van.

Thrilled for future generations

Tarynn Huitt, a junior chemical engineering major from Salem, Mo., was one of numerous students excited about the future of her College. “I’m thrilled that future generations of students will have the opportunity to use the new facility. As an alumnus, I (will be able to) sneak a peek and check out the new labs,” she said as she stood in front of a piece of student-created equipment called a Vx Mixer, designed to combine substances for pharmaceutical and other industries. “I think (this new building) means growth. I believe it embodies our growing presence in the STEM field nationally . . . It reaffirms my belief . . . in 10 years my degree is going to mean so much more.”

Alumnus Brighid Burgin, a 2012 chemical engineering graduate and member of the Rowan University Alumni Association board, echoed Huitt. Said the Mantua Township, N.J., resident now working for Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering in Paulsboro, N.J., “It’s awesome. It makes you really proud. You think how great your experience was, and it’s going to be even better for the next generation.”

More than students, more than alumni are pleased about the next step for Rowan Engineering. Mr. Rowan, after the official event, said, “I think it’s remarkable. It’s only been a few years, and you’re already doubling the size of the Engineering school. It’s a lot of progress.” 

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