Rowan U. endowment growing by the millions

Rowan U. endowment growing by the millions

Nearly fifteen years after a $100 million gift from local businessman Henry Rowan ushered in a new era for a college now bearing his name, the endowment and the subsequent benefits being reaped from the historic donation and the dozens of gifts that have followed are continuing to grow.

In a recent survey of the top 765 higher education endowments in the country published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Rowan University's Foundation ranked 286th with a June 30, 2006 market value of $147 million, a 7.7 percent increase from the previous year.

That number has already grown considerably 12 percent in the months since the figures calculated in the annual survey were compiled.

When the board of the Rowan University Foundation prepares to make its annual transfer of funds to the university from the endowment next month, it will be considering withdrawing somewhere between $6 and $7 million from a $167.7 million pot, according to Philip Tumminia, executive director of the foundation.

Roughly $2 million of that is already designated toward roughly 300 scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000 that are awarded. Additional funds are also designated toward the debt service of Rowan Hall, the college of engineering's home, and various programs across the university where specific gifts have been designated.

The bulk of the funds are directed as the president and the board of trustees see fit.

"That is money that is obviously not coming from state appropriations and obviously not coming from students," said President Donald Farish.

Now more than double what it was in 2000, the endowment has grown all but one year in that span as state aid has depreciated. The university has received about $46 million from the endowment since 1992, according to Tumminia.

"The endowment is important to us now because it allows us to do certain things we don't have state support to do," Farish said. "As each year goes by we have more to work with."

The impact all of this has on students can't be easily summarized with a list of programs or facilities, Farish said, noting that the benefit of the annual transfer of funds from the endowment amounts to about $500 a year per student.

"This is the icing on the cake," Farish said. "No state has enough money to be able to fund excellence. It funds adequacy. Excellence is going to come from private gifts. We are fortunate to have some very generous people in South Jersey to add that layer of excellence."

Take Thomas N. Bantivoglio, for example.

The Princeton- and Harvard-educated attorney helped get an honors college started from scratch three years ago with a $1 million gift. The college now has 300 students. Each year, about $40,000 generated from the gift enables students from the college to present papers at national conferences, Farish said.

Bantivoglio's relationship with Rowan began through his involvement with William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation, which established a professorial chair in the business college with a $1 million gift in 1995.

The college became the Rohrer College of Business two years ago when the late businessman's foundation pledged another $10 million over two decades. The gift has tripled the size of the college's non-salary budget with the promise of $500,000 a year, Farish noted.

The college is now considered among the best in the country, according to the Princeton Review's 2007 "Best 282 Business Schools" publication.

Endowed professorial chairs in the business college an additional $1 million gift was given toward a chair by Ann Campbell in 2000 have also helped boost the college's entrepreneurship program, ranked the 17th best in the country by a survey released by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine last year.

A $1 million gift from the foundation has also aided in the construction of the Innovation Center, the first building in the South Jersey Technology Park at Rowan University in Mantua Township. The entrepreneurship program's business incubator, which helps create business opportunities for students, will move to the center when it opens later this year.

Joe Cardona, a university spokesman, summarizes the impact of the growing endowment simply:

"It allows us to offer programs that perhaps other schools can't offer, support services that other schools can't offer," Cardona said. "It allows us the flexibility to do things our sister colleges can't do."

In the Chronicle survey, only one public institution in the state Rutgers University ranks higher than Rowan. Rutgers' endowment had a market value of nearly $550 million in June 2006. The only other New Jersey publics on the list are New Jersey Institute of Technology with $58 million and Montclair State University with $30 million.

What Rowan's endowment will look like in another 15 years is something Rowan officials say is difficult to predict.

Farish did recently find a promising anecdote researching a paper.

In 1980, both Brown University and Duke University's endowments were each less than Rowan's is today. More than 26 years later, both schools have endowments of more than $1 billion.

"I don't know that's going to happen over the next 25 years here, but if it did can you imagine what it would mean at Rowan?" Farish said. "It would change a few things."

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Date Published: Sunday, February 4, 2007 (All day)