Rowan University mourns passing of benefactor Henry M. Rowan
The man who was the catalyst for the transformation of Rowan University (Glassboro, New Jersey), the benefactor whose $100-million gift to then-Glassboro State College in 1992 startled the philanthropic community and changed education in South Jersey, entrepreneur and business leader Henry M. Rowan died on Dec. 9. He was 92 years old.
The Ridgewood, New Jersey, native was the founder and chairman of Rancocas-based Inductotherm Group, the world’s leading manufacturer of melting, thermal processing and production systems for the metals and materials industry. He and his late wife, Betty Long Rowan, started the business in 1953, building their first furnace at their Ewing Township, New Jersey, home. Today, the Inductotherm Group and its sister companies employ more than 3,500 people in more than 20 nations and serve customers around the globe.
A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Rowan donated the largest gift to date to a public college or university to then-GSC with the request that it transform engineering education. The school that was named Rowan College in 1992 (and became Rowan University in 1997) welcomed its first class in its award-winning College of Engineering in 1996. Today, the College offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs in five disciplines and is adding a new building to enable it to double its enrollment to about 2,000 students. After the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation donated $15 million last year for the College of Engineering, the Rowan University Board of Trustees named it the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering. In total, Mr. Rowan, the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation and Indel Inc. have donated close to $126 million to various programs at Rowan University.
“Henry Rowan’s remarkable generosity shaped the University into what it is today, and I have no doubt we will come to see he indeed has helped transform our entire region. The impact Mr. Rowan has made is incalculable, and he has touched many lives because of a desire to change engineering education and give a small school in South Jersey a chance to prove itself,” said Dr. Ali A. Houshmand, president. “Rowan University has lost a wonderful friend.”
The donation by Mr. and Mrs. Rowan directly and indirectly led to remarkable growth at the University, which today is designated by the State of New Jersey as a research institution and is one of only two schools in the nation with both M.D.- and D.O.-degree granting medical schools.
The chairman of the Rowan University Board of Trustees, Linda Rohrer, acknowledged Mr. Rowan was an inspiration in many ways. “I consider it an honor to build on Hank’s dream by helping this University grow and solve some of our region’s biggest challenges,” she said.
Added Rohrer, who is head of the William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation, which donated more than $10 million to Rowan University, “Hank’s commitment to the community and generosity were an inspiration for many others to donate to the University. His gift was the foundation upon which many others built. He was the catalyst for our Foundation investing in this school.”
Mr. Rowan and the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation also donated to numerous other organizations in South Jersey and beyond, including recent contributions to the Williamson College of the Trades in Delaware County, Pennsylvania; the South Jersey Chapter of Boy Scouts of America; and the Doane Academy in Burlington City.
Gov. Chris Christie said, “Mr. Rowan was one of the great philanthropists of our time. There were many ways in which he could have invested in the future. His vision for and commitment to higher education has had and will continue to have a profound impact on the State of New Jersey. He has made a difference in the lives of individual students and in our state.”
“The passing of Henry Rowan is a great loss for all of New Jersey,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “By making such a huge investment in the public sector, he has in effect touched every part of the state. Because of the contribution Mr. Rowan made in 1992, he has improved education and helped keep talented young people in New Jersey.”
Many organizations have honored Mr. Rowan, including the University. In December 2012, the institution unveiled a seven-foot bronze sculpture of Mr. Rowan in Glassboro, marking the 20th anniversary of the Rowan Gift.
Mr. Rowan was a veteran of the Army Air Corps and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He was a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame and he competed in the 1992 Olympic sailing trials in Miami. He published his autobiography, “The Fire Within,” in 1995.
Mr. Rowan is survived by his wife, Lee; his daughter, Virginia and son-in-law, Manning J. Smith III; and his grandchildren, Rowan Smith Watson and Manning J. Smith IV.
Henry M. Rowan (Dec. 4, 1923 - Dec. 9, 2015)
Pictured: Henry Rowan pictured with Rowan’s Board Chair Linda Rohrer