Speaking of his grandfather, Henry Rowan, Manning “Jamey” Smith IV, in his keynote address during the second annual Henry Rowan Day in the chapel on Nov. 13, said “He believed in Williamson and its core values. He knew that you students would take the values with you when you leave here and they will help you be successful employees, business owners, and members of your community.”
Smith, director of market development at Pemberton Fabricators and manager of ElectroSteam, subsidiaries of the Inductotherm Group, shared some interesting aspects of Rowan’s life with the audience, including that he grew up with divorced parents, attended boarding school, flew B-17 bombers, got married and had children, studied electrical engineering at MIT, and that he was smart and driven.
“He also had guts. He quit his job manufacturing furnaces because the company wasn’t interested in innovation and he started his own company, making furnaces in his backyard. He was competitive, driven, and very smart. No wonder he was so successful. Today his company is huge with subsidiaries all over the world.
“But, he wasn’t in business to make a fortune. He wanted to make the best melting equipment in the world. He enjoyed working and never took time off.”
Smith said his grandfather liked to push the limits of things and never slowed down. “He would push something until it broke and then turn back ten percent. He pushed people and his employees to give ten percent more.”
He loved flying airplanes and was a bit of a cowboy. “When I was only five years old, he took me and my family up in a plane with me sitting with him at the controls. He told me to pull up and the plane went into a spin. It was a bad situation, but he pulled out of it.
“Another time, he flew to a business meeting in Pittsburgh in weather so bad you couldn’t see the runway. While landing, the plane skidded into some trees. Everyone was OK, but covered in mud and dirt. They went to the meeting looking like that and he told the people they had to buy their equipment because they crashed getting there.
“He was very competitive and liked racing sailboats competitively and did not take it well when he lost. He hated losing more than he liked winning.”
He was also frugal. “He liked making money, but not spending money. He could tell you where you could buy the cheapest gas for your car. When we were young, he charged us five cents for leaving lights on.”
He also was generous and when he gave money to a cause, it was an endorsement because he believed in what they were doing and hoped to encourage others to also give.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Peter Gaglio, senior class president, presented him with the Rowan Award, which was designed and built by Williamson students and instructors. The award represents the school’s six trades and five core values, which together make a Williamson man.
Gaglio said, “Henry Rowan bounced back from hard times and pushed on with a list of accomplishments and that is what we Williamson students do. He was resilient and so are we. We are a group of young men eager to open doors to success.”
In his opening remarks, President Michael Rounds said “This is a day in which we honor and remember a truly great man and his family who have done a great deal to support this school, so much that we can never adequately repay them for all they have done to help us. This new event will continue annually as long as Williamson College of the Trades exists. We do this to thank them, and also because we want everyone connected with our school to remember Henry Rowan, a man who is going down in Williamson history as an extremely important part of who we are today and who we will be in the future.
“We also want everyone to know that we are also generously supported by Henry’s wife Lee, the Rowan Family Foundation, and the rest of the Rowan family, which includes his daughter, Ginny, and her husband Manning Smith III, their son, Manning IV, better known as Jamey, and their daughter Rowan Smith Watson.
“To start at the beginning, ten years ago, Williamson was in severe financial difficulty. The school faced the possibility of closing its doors or, at the very least, dropping one or two of its trades and accepting fewer students. But Henry Rowan saved the day with a gift that was truly transformational. Only one other person has done as much to help our school and that man is our founder Isaiah Williamson. At that time, our endowment was not sufficient to support our mission and because of his generosity, our endowment nearly doubled. Today, our financial situation has improved significantly, we are stronger than ever, and our programs are expanding, resulting in an even better education for our students.
“Henry passed away on December 9, 2015, but his wife Lee, has continued the generous support of her husband and we have been able to complete many projects that earlier were out of reach because of a lack of money.
“Because of Lee Rowan’s generosity, we were able to renovate the building we are now in. We put in new hardwood floors in the first floor hallways, lobby, and dining room. The dining room was remodeled, modernized, and greatly expanded, nearly doubling its occupancy. We can now have our entire student body in the dining room at the same time with seating for many others. This new space has already been used several times for meetings. We also were able to add an office suite in the lower level, which houses the Office of Institutional Advancement.
“You young men sitting in the audience today owe Henry Rowan and the Rowan family, a big thank you, for they have helped make your education possible. Because of them, Williamson College of the Trades will be here for a long time to come. And, we are so much better off because we have the Rowans as friends.”
In his trustee remarks, Michael Piotrowicz, Williamson’s longest serving trustee, said “Our purpose today is to communicate who Henry Rowan was and who the Rowan family is. They have done a lot to keep Williamson going and we are lucky to have this relationship.
“Henry Rowan understood our need, it was our endowment and he knew it needed to be strengthened. If it were not for Henry Rowan we would not be in the good financial condition we are now in.
“He gave to people who wanted to help themselves, like you students are doing. You are working hard for three years. He believed in the trades and thought education was the key to success. He believed in discipline, integrity, and excellence. He liked Williamson because he thought our students would work hard to be a success. He believed in our mission and what it meant to be a Williamson man.”
The Artisans lead the audience in the singing of the alma mater and Rev. Mark Specht 7W7 gave the invocation and benediction.