The Rowan Gift

The Rowan Gift

The story of the Rowan Gift

This year, Rowan University marks the 25th anniversary of the $100 million gift from Henry and Betty Rowan that changed a school, a region and higher education philanthropy throughout the nation.

That $100 million gift to then-Glassboro State College was the largest made to a public institution at that time, and it turned a local, well-regarded state college into a university on the national higher education map, triggering other gifts of that magnitude across the country and spurring numerous significant donations to the University that was named for its major benefactors.

For 25 years, the institution—now known as Rowan University—has undergone changes few could have imagined two decades ago. When he made the unprecedented donation, Burlington County businessman and philanthropist Henry Rowan had only one stipulation. The founder, president and CEO of Inductotherm Industries, Inc. and alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asked that GSC build an engineering college in South Jersey and revitalize engineering education. Beyond that, the funds were unrestricted—Mr. Rowan’s way of acknowledging that simply endowing a college of engineering would not be enough; the money was needed to ensure the entire institution changed, that excellence was ensured throughout the campus. The Rowan gift became the compelling start of the institution's strong endowment, building interest from which the University draws a fraction annually. 

"Mr. and Mrs. Rowan's gift transformed our institution," said Rowan President Ali A. Houshmand, who came to the University as provost nearly 15 years after the gift was made. "Such a donation was unheard-of at the time and caused quite a stir in academic and philanthropic circles. To say we were—and are—grateful would be an understatement and a disservice to the Rowan family's generosity. That generosity changed our University, the town of Glassboro and South Jersey for all time. It created countless opportunites for individuals and organizations, truly improving peoples' lives, just as the Rowans intended."

Impacting engineering education

The University did indeed revitalize engineering education with remarkable success, showing just how outstanding it was even before it graduated its first engineering class in 2000. The College of Engineering offers its hallmark engineering clinics, providing students with hands-on experiences starting during the first weeks of their freshman year. That approach was unusual at the time the College was founded—programs typically started hands-on work two years later—but it is widely emulated now. Virtually since the College's inception, U.S. News & World Report consistently highly ranked it and/or its programs; today it ranks the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering in the top 20 in the nation in its category. Professors and students regularly conduct research for the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, NASA, the U.S. Navy, state offices and Fortune 500 companies, and they are leaders in professional organizations. 

Going far beyond engineering

The Rowan Gift—the largest portion of the Rowan University Foundation's $208 million in total assets—did much more for the institution, however, than create an exceptional engineering program. It paved the way for broader initiatives, spurred other individuals, foundations and companies to donate to the school and continually attracted more and more competitive students into programs in the colleges that comprise the University.

Highlights at the University since 1992 include:

  • Increasing enrollment from 9,600 to 18,500 students in 2017.
  • Attaining Carnegie doctoral research institution status, with its national recognition.
  • Opening Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in collaboration with Cooper University Health Care and integrating the School of Osteopathic Medicine, making Rowan only the second school in the nation with both M.D.-and D.O.-granting medical schools.
  • Partnering with the Borough of Glassboro and private investors on the $400 million, mixed-use Rowan Boulevard redevelopment project.
  • Founding the South Jersey Technology Park, home to sponsored research labs and a business incubator.
  • Collaborating with regional leaders to support research and create academic programs in health sciences.
  • Increasing annual external research funding from $400,000 in 2008 to more than $34 million in 2017.
  • Enhancing and expanding numerous programs, including the honors program endowed by Thomas N. Bantivoglio.
  • Attracting donations from more than 22,000 supporters for scholarships, academic programs, facilities and more.