“My dad would be pleased to have this day, but on one condition — you don’t take the whole day off,” said Virginia Rowan Smith, in the opening of her keynote speech on the 1st annual Rowan Day, a special event designed to honor Henry Rowan and the Rowan family.
She said, “He didn’t understand why days that honor someone meant taking a whole day off of work or school. He believed that doing a job you love is something fun and you don’t want to stop doing it. He liked running his company and believed it was no fun running a company if there are no challenges.”
Smith, who is the daughter of Henry Rowan, chair of Inductotherm Corp., the company he founded, and group vice president of the Inductotherm Group, told the audience that most of them had not met him, but she would like them to know something about him.
“He was a businessman, an entrepreneur, and benefactor of Rowan University. He also did a lot to help Williamson because your mission was near and dear to him. He liked Williamson very much.”
She went on to explain how each of Williamson’ trades appealed to him: machine tool technology because he loved all kinds of tools, carpentry because he loved to design things out of wood, masonry because he loved building things out of cinder blocks and brick, horticulture because he was a gardener and enjoyed raising vegetables and fruit, painting and coatings technology because he knew the importance of protective coatings, and power plant technology because his company worked with induction power.
Speaking to the students, she said “He could relate to you and your trades. He cared for you and he believed in you. His interests were like yours. As an individual, he was like you.”
Smith said the best way to know something of her father is to read the book he wrote, The Fire Within, which is in Williamson’s library.
At the conclusion of her speech, Ray Drulik, president of the senior class and a member of the Rowan Day Award Committee, said the committee, made up of students from each shop as well as two faculty advisors designed and fabricated the first ever Rowan Day Award which will be presented to the keynote speaker from now on. He explained that the award contains a representation of each shop and includes the school’s five core values. “which are the driving force behind everything we do.” He then presented the award to her.
In his opening remarks, President Michael Rounds said “Today marks the beginning of a new and important tradition, a day we honor a man and family who did so much to support this school. It was nearly ten years ago Henry Rowan gave Williamson a gift that altered the future of this school.”
He said Rowan Day is a day to thank the Rowan family for their transformational support of Williamson and that he wants everyone associated with the school from now on to know what the family has done to help the school and to know something of the man.
“Henry Rowan provided a gift that was truly transformational and he gave it at a time that it was badly needed. The school was in a difficult financial situation and our endowment was not sufficient to support our mission.”
He said Mr. Rowan began giving to Williamson in 2000, but in 2007 he saw how desperate our financial situation was. He offered a challenge grant with the idea of attracting new donors and getting current donors to increase their gifts, so his gift would have a lasting impact.
“It was while trying to meet this challenge grant that school officials met with H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest. Mr. Lenfest said he would not participate in the challenge grant, but he would offer $20 million if Henry Rowan would also. These gifts nearly doubled our endowment.
“Gifts from Henry Rowan, his wife Lee Rowan, and the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation, helped Williamson survive a bad economy that might have ended the school. We might have been forced to drop some programs and not had as many students.”
He pointed out that the main administrative building was dedicated as Rowan Hall just about one year ago to the day and the Power Plant Technology Program was recently named the Lee Rowan School of Power Plant Technology in honor of Lee Rowan’s generous support of the program, bringing us closer to having a completed Energy Island. She also made possible the renovations to Rowan Hall, which include expanding the dining room with a lower level and renovating the lobby and first floor hallways.
“The Rowans made a transformational difference because they like what we are doing here and we are better off for this.”
William Bonenberger 7W9, chairman of the board of trustees, then spoke about Henry Rowan, the man.
“Henry Rowan believed in the importance of education and wanted to help young men at Williamson get an education, not just the students of today, but future students.
“He was a born entrepreneur, a risk taker, and a tireless worker. He was raised by a single mother and learned the importance of frugality, something we believe in here.”
He told the story of how young Henry Rowan decided to earn money by raising chickens to sell the eggs. His mother bought his eggs, but made him pay for the items necessary to raise them at market price.
“During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a bomber pilot, flying B-17s and B-29s. The war ended before he was able to fly in combat, something he regretted. But he did develop a love of flying.”
He earned a degree in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went to work for Ajax Electrothermic Corp. in New Jersey, manufacturing induction furnaces. When the company rejected his innovations for improving the furnaces, full of confidence, he founded his own company to manufacture them. Today his company, Inductotherm, in Rancocas, NJ, is the world’s leader in manufacturing induction furnace systems.
“The entire Williamson family owes a debt to the Rowan family we can never repay. They help because they believe in our mission. Henry Rowan wanted to help students get an education, not just for today, but in the future. He was a lot like our founder. He lived his life according to the same values we teach here. He was a Williamson man. You owe him a thank you because he helped make your education possible.”
Trustee Michael Piotrowicz said, all of the Rowan family members have supported Williamson financially. Henry Rowan took the lead, but we have been helped by his wife Lee, his daughter Virginia Rowan Smith and her husband Manning Smith III, and their children Rowan Smith Watson and Manning Smith IV.
He then thanked Virginia Rowan Smith and Lee Rowan for being in the audience.
He explained to the students the importance of finances at their school. “We have two sources of revenue at Williamson. Our endowment, which we invest and then take out a certain amount of the interest to pay our bills, and unrestricted giving, called the Williamson Fund, which is money people give to Williamson.
“Henry Rowan’s gift provided more than half of our endowment, which is $100 million. We take $5 million from that annually to meet our budget. But we need $7 million. That means we need to raise $2 million each year to pay our bills.
“The Henry Rowan Family Foundation is the largest supporter of our Williamson Fund. Because of the foundation, we have met our budget for the last five or six years. We are here to give our thanks and to have you understand the impact the Rowan family has had at Williamson. Lee has endowed the power plant program and is paying for the expansion of the dining room.
“I am fortunate to know the Rowan family. They are my clients and my friends. Williamson has benefitted wonderfully from the Rowan family. I know you will all do well because of them. Williamson offers you a free education, but nothing is free, someone had to kick in to make this possible. The Rowan family stepped in and we owe them a debt we cannot repay.”
The ceremony closed with Rev. Mark Specht 7W7 giving a benediction and the Artisans, under the direction of Sherre Gaertner, leading in the singing of the Alma Mater.
The students who made the Rowan Day Award are: Austin Jacque, who spent 30 hours hand-programming and manufacturing the gears; Raymond Drulik, who manufactured the wood base and holding studs; Nick Palmieri, who laser engraved the gears and plaque; Justin Thomas, who manufactured the fixtures and jigs; Colin Henry, who stained the wood base; Justin Drass, who prepared the wood base for machining; Alex Law, who prepared the wood base for machining; David Nagel, machine tool technology instructor, who oversaw the entire project, and John Curran, paint and coatings technology instructor.