With words of praise and admiration for Henry Rowan from a host of illustrious speakers, Williamson’s main administration building, known for many years as the Main Building, was dedicated forever as Rowan Hall, in honor of Rowan, who passed away Dec. 9, 2015, in a ceremony in the building’s lobby Tuesday morning.
After an invocation by Rev. Mark Specht 7W7, President Michael Rounds welcomed the audience, which included Lee Rowan, Henry Rowan’s wife; Virginia Rowan Smith, Rowan’s daughter; and Smith’s children, Rowan Smith Watson and Manning J. Smith IV; the board of trustees; a number of guests; and many student Ambassadors.
Rounds said, “I want to welcome you all here for this very special day in Williamson history. Today, we are honoring a man who gave Williamson College of the Trades a debt we can never repay. We are honoring the man for whom the building we are in right now is named. As you may know, the building long known as the Main Building is now named Rowan Hall in honor of Henry Rowan. We named this building in his honor because we want to make sure his name is a part of Williamson for all time.”
Rounds said the gifts to Williamson from Henry Rowan were transformational and make him the one person who did so much to help this school that there is only one other person who did more, school founder, Isaiah Williamson.
He pointed out that the two men shared several traits; both were very successful in their fields and became very wealthy, both used their business success to help others, and both gave with a humble attitude with no desire for recognition.
Henry Rowan began giving to Williamson in 2000, but in 2007 decided to make a challenge grant of $5 million that would inspire new donors and encourage former donors to increase their gifts, Rounds said. This gift lead him and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest to each donate $20 million in 2008.
“Naming our main administration building Rowan Hall seems like such a small way to thank a man who did so much to help us. After many conversations with his wife, Lee, I know he would never have asked for such recognition, but I think he would appreciate the fact that his role here means so much to us that we wanted to do something other than merely say thank you.”
Rounds closed his remarks saying Williamson has received support from Henry Rowan, The Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation, led by Ginny Rowan Smith, and from his wife, Lee. “We are forever grateful for this support which has allowed us to achieve dreams we were not sure would ever become a reality.”
Board Chairman William Bonenberger 7W9, speaking on Henry Rowan, the man, said “Henry Rowan believed in the importance of education and believed this was the most important means of improving a person’s life. I am a person who benefitted from a Williamson education and I am better off because of it.”
Bonenberger told how Rowan was a born entrepreneur, risk take, and tireless worker, who came from humble beginnings and went on to become a very successful businessman. After serving in the Army Air Corps as a bomber pilot, he completed his education on the GI Bill and earned an engineering degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After working for a company that manufactured induction furnaces, he decided he knew how to do it better and founded his own company, Inductotherm, in Rancocas, N.J. Today his company’s furnaces account for more than half of all induction furnace systems in the world and is part of Inductotherm Group with 40 subsidiaries throughout the world.
Bonenberger said, “Henry Rowan was not content to build great wealth and then spend it on himself. He believed that a responsibility came with wealth and gave generously over the years to many different organizations and schools. For some, the American dream consists of being successful and amassing great wealth. For great Americans like Henry Rowan and Isaiah Williamson, their dream was a little different. They were extremely successful, but used their wealth to support worthy causes they believed in and that generosity has not only helped thousands, it has left a legacy that will continue on long after they have passed away. We have changed the name of our main administration building to Rowan Hall to recognize this major role that Henry Rowan has played at Williamson College of the Trades.”
Trustee Michael Piotrowicz said “Henry Rowan believed in education and he believed in Williamson’s core values. He lived his life with these core values and believed you need to be a person of character. I was lucky to know Mr. Rowan and now the students can know him. He was a Williamson man.”
Piotrowicz then said, “The board has decided that every November 15 will be Henry Rowan Day at Williamson. It will be a day to talk about the man and what he did for Williamson. He will not be forgotten.”
Virginia Rowan Smith, Rowan’s daughter said, “I think the appropriate word to use for this dedication is proclaim. We are proclaiming that this building will now be known as Rowan Hall as a tribute to my father for his special legacy.
“Students will be saying to their friends, ‘Meet me in Rowan Hall’ and before long they will get more familiar and say, ‘Meet me in Rowan.’
“I want people to know him, to know something about the man. He could relate to the trades, he loved tools, and he loved to make things. He loved tools so much it was easy to buy Christmas presents for him. When he lifted a present and felt that it was heavy, he knew it was something he wanted.”
Smith went on to describe how his interests touched on each of Williamson’s shops. “He had a work bench and he loved to make things out of wood. He knew trees and bushes and enjoyed making trails in his backyard. He knew the importance of protecting wood from corrosion. Lee has endowed the Power Plant Technology Program and he would have been impressed with all that they teach, such as the different types of power. He would have liked that this trade is a good basis for continuing your education in engineering.”
After the remarks, the portrait of Henry Rowan, painted by Philadelphia area artist Garth Herrick and mounted on the wall of the lobby next to the words Rowan Hall and a bronze plaque with some information on Henry Rowan, was unveiled. Herrick had the honor of cutting the string which lowered the cloth hiding the portrait for all to see and applaud.
The group then enjoyed lunch in the dining room with the Rowan family as the guests of honor and a tour of the campus.