Rowan's Growth Expert

President Ali Houshmand knows something about growing things: while he’s been at the helm of Rowan University, a doctoral research institution in Southern New Jersey, the university has enjoyed widespread expansion in enrollment, programs, facilities, research, funding and partnerships—rapid, explosive growth that has earned the school (and its president) many accolades.

The president knows something about growing other things, too: namely peppers, now offered to the public in Houshmand’s Hazardous Hot Sauce. For years, his secret recipe was a savory treat for the president’s family and friends. Then he offered some to be auctioned at a Rowan student fundraiser and his small batches sold out. The word got out and demand grew and grew!

Today, culinary pros at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center help President Houshmand turn the peppers he grows into three types of hot sauce, with all proceeds going to the Rowan University Student Scholarship Fund. A model of entrepreneurism and responsible stewardship, the hot sauce project is funded privately to yield the greatest benefit to students.

Easing students' financial burden matters to the president, who grew up one of 10 children in Iran, the son of a mother who was a homemaker and father who for a time earned money by selling water for pennies. The aspiring engineer went on to earn degrees in the U.K. (where he lived on money he earned by frying KFC chicken and support sent by three of his brothers) and in the U.S., then began his career as a professional and educator. President Houshmand’s upbringing influences his culinary interests and his experience as a young man drives him to help students in need.