Tribute held for benefactor of Rowan

Tribute held for benefactor of Rowan

By GENE VERNACCHIO, Courier-Post Staff

GLASSBORO--A decade after Henry M. Rowan's $100 million pledge, members of the Rowan University community paused Monday to salute their biggest benefactor.

An audience in Wilson Hall gave the 78-year-old Rancocas resident a standing ovation. But the president and founder of Inductotherm Industries said he always looked at the 1992 pledge made by him and his late wife, Betty, as a challenge - not a gift.

"I think South Jersey needed a place for engineering education and Glassboro State (College) needed the enhanced reputation that engineering could bring," Rowan said.

"It became a challenge to make life a little more exciting," he said. "And that's what it's been and still is."

University President Donald Farish reflected on sweeping changes at the school, which was renamed for the Rowans, since the 1992 gift. But he cautioned that the school is only about halfway where it wants to be.

"We're starting to build real momentum now," Farish said. "Ten years from now, this institution will be fully transformed."

Since the Rowan pledge, the school has created an engineering college and opened a recreation center, a library and a new engineering building. It also has renovated or expanded several other buildings on campus and attracted more than $20 million in additional donations.

Philip Tumminia, executive vice president for university advancement and executive director of the Rowan University Foundation, said no gifts of Rowan's size were made to any college or university from 1979 until 1992.

"And since that day in 1992 (when the Rowans pledged $ 100 million), 45 gifts of $100 million-plus have been made to educational institutions. The vast majority have been private institutions.

"I think the record is clear - Henry Rowan raised the bar for charitable giving in higher education in the United States," Tumminia said. " ... All of us in higher education thank you, Hank Rowan, for your charitable giving."

Farish also noted that the donation allowed the school to acquire large tracts of nearby land to relocate athletic fields and expand the central campus, as well as create a new South Jersey High-Technology Center.

To date, Rowan has donated more than $67 million to the school. He said he hopes to complete the balance of his pledge by the end of 2003. The gift, when it was announced, was the largest ever given to a public college in the United States.

Rowan said he's pleased with the progress the institution has made, but concedes the school has yet to reach its ultimate goals.

"Money is money and it can do some things," Rowan said. " But money can't do everything."

Rowan said he's proud, especially of the school's approximately 300 first engineering graduates.

"But the jury is still out whether this is going to be a great institution or not," Rowan said. "It's up to the performance of the faculty who instill the kind of greatness that will build a reputation for Rowan University."

Virginia Rowan Smith, Henry and Betty Rowan's daughter who also is a member of the university's board of trustees, said the gift has allowed the world to see another side of her father.

"I'm very proud to say that ... underneath all of his gruff exterior is a very, very generous man," she said.

Rowan timeline

-- 1911: Gov. Woodrow Wilson persuades the state to build a two-year training school for teachers in South Jersey. Several communities vie to be host.

-- 1917: A total of 107 Glassboro residents raise more than $7,000 to purchase 25 acres, which they offer to the state for free. The land includes the Whitney Mansion and carriage house.

-- 1923: Glassboro Normal School opens with 236 young women arriving by train to convene in College Hall, the only building on the campus.

-- 1934: The school becomes a four-year degree-granting college.

-- 1937: The school changes its name to New Jersey State Teachers College at Glassboro.

-- 1950s: The curriculum expands so the school can do more than educate teachers. Enrollment grows rapidly.It also adds 117 acres to the campus by purchasing a peach orchard on the other side of Route 322.

-- 1958: The school is renamed Glassboro State College.

-- 1967: Hollybush is selected as the site for the June summit conference with President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin.

-- 1969: The Camden Urban Center, Glassboro's branch campus, opens.

-- 1992: Henry M. and Betty Rowan donate $100 million to the college. The school is renamed Rowan College of New Jersey.

-- 1997: A doctorate in educational leadership program is created, the first doctoral program in the state college system. University status is achieved and the school is renamed Rowan University.

-- 1998: Rowan Hall, home of the College of Engineering, opens.

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Date Published: Thursday, July 18, 2002 - 10:07
Source URL: Courier-Post