The Rowan Gift

The Rowan Gift

The story of the Rowan Gift

This year, Rowan University marks the 30th anniversary of the $100 million gift from Henry and Betty Rowan that transformed a school, a region and higher education philanthropy throughout the nation.

Their $100 million gift to then-Glassboro State College (GSC) was the largest made to a public institution at that time. It turned a local, well-regarded state college into one of the fastest-growing public research universities in the nation, inspiring other gifts of that magnitude across the country and spurring numerous significant donations to the University renamed in honor of its major benefactors.

For 30 years, the institution—now known as Rowan University—has undergone changes few could have imagined mere decades ago. When he made the unprecedented donation, Burlington County entrepreneur 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 opportunities 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 Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering offers its hallmark engineering clinics, providing students with hands-on experiences starting during the first weeks of their first 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 among 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 Department of Defense, state offices and Fortune 500 companies, and they are leaders in professional organizations.

Going far beyond engineering
The Rowan Gift 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 and faculty into programs in the colleges that comprise the University.

Highlights at the University since 1992 include:

  • Increasing enrollment from 9,600 to 22,000 students in 2022.
  • Becoming the fourth fastest-growing public research university three years in a row (2019-2021), according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Attaining Carnegie doctoral research institution status (R2), with its national recognition.
  • Being ranked among the nation’s top 100 public universities annually since 2018. 
  • Opening Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in collaboration with Cooper University Health Care and integrating the School of Osteopathic Medicine, making Rowan one of three institutions in the nation with both M.D.-and D.O.-granting medical schools.
  • Partnering with the Borough of Glassboro and private investors on the $426 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 $40 million in 2022.
  • Enhancing and expanding numerous programs, including the John H. Martinson Honors College and its Thomas N. Bantivoglio Honors Concentration.
  • Attracting donations from tens of thousands of supporters for scholarships, academic programs, facilities and more.
  • Creating the $73 million Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park Museum.
  • Announcing the establishment of New Jersey’s first veterinary school with plans to welcome its first class in 2025, pending approval from the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (COE).
  • Partnering with southern New Jersey’s largest health system to create the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Health Sciences of Rowan University.