Dr. Ali A. Houshmand, president of Rowan University, in his keynote address during the 3rd Annual Henry Rowan Day in the Clara Schrenk Memorial Chapel on Nov. 13, said “I consider Henry Rowan to be a hero of mine and I wanted to be like him.”
Houshmand said in 1992, before Henry Rowan gave then Glassboro College $100 million, the largest gift to a college at that time, the school was like a community college. “It had 9,000 students and was not a prestigious school. School officials had asked him for a gift of $1,500 and he said ‘no.’ He did not believe in giving gifts. He wanted his donations to bring about change. He then offered us $100 million. He did this because he wanted excellence. He was all about excellence and investment. He believed everyone needs to give more than they take. He thought his donation would benefit a generation of people and, ultimately, the whole country.”
Glassboro College was named Rowan University in his honor and the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering was created. The school hired highly qualified people to develop the college and it is now the 19th in the country and the second in the Delaware Valley. Rowan University has become a highly respected research university.
Houshmand went on to say, “There are many commonalities between Williamson College and Rowan University. This is a blue collar school and so is Rowan University.”
He said he didn’t understand why so many young people go to four-year colleges. “Williamson graduates have multiple job offers and it is because of the education you receive. The school not only teaches you how to do things, but how to interact with people and the qualities you need to be successful. I hope you realize how fortunate you are to be getting this great education. I congratulate you on the great school you have.”
Houshmand, who grew up in poverty in a large family in Iran, said “I am proud of my background and I am proud I was able to end up in this great country. A country where someone like me can apply himself and be successful. This is a great country full of opportunity. I hope you are proud of your country and will work hard to make it even better.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Chris Thomas, senior class president, said “Rowan University and Williamson share a common bond by being blessed by the generosity of the Rowan family. It’s this generosity that we celebrate on this, the 3rd annual Rowan Day.”
Thomas then presented Houshmand with the Rowan Award, which was designed and handcrafted by Williamson students. The award, with the six shops rotating around the five core values, represents the culture Williamson students live in every day on their road to becoming Williamson men.
In his opening remarks, President Michael Rounds said “Hank and Lee Rowan and the Henry Rowan Family Foundation are second only to our founder as benefactors to Williamson. It is hard to imagine what Williamson would look like today if it were not for the Rowan family. That is why we named this building Rowan Hall when Henry Rowan passed four years ago. That is why we named our power plant technology program the Lee Rowan School of Power Plant Technology. And this is why we celebrate Rowan Day each year.”
In his trustee remarks, Michael Piotrowicz, who joined Williamson’s board 30 years ago, making him the longest serving trustee, and who is the person who did more than anyone to introduce Henry Rowan to Williamson College of the Trades, said “This is a great day at Williamson to reflect on a man who means so much to us and a family who continues to mean so much to Williamson.”
Addressing the students, he said “Henry Rowan never met you, but he was interested in you and wanted to help you. We need to remember the man who took such an interest in all of you who are sitting here. He knew what we were accomplishing and he knew the opportunity that could be created for each of you and he wanted to perpetuate what we had built.”
Piotrowicz knew Henry Rowan well and said Rowan believed that a solid education, a moral compass, and a desire to be successful are what it takes to be a productive member of society.
“He was a brilliant business man and his company, Inductotherm Group, is today the largest manufacturer of induction furnace systems in the world. He came from humble beginnings and was a humble and frugal person. When he made a donation, he considered it an investment. He invested in Williamson because he related to the students. He cared deeply about you and made an investment in your future.“
He also pointed out that Henry’s wife Lee has continued supporting Williamson, endowing the Power Plant Technology Program, which is now named in her honor, expanding the size of the dining hall, and helping to provide the new artificial turf athletic field.
“The Henry Rowan Family Foundation and the rest of the Rowan family, which includes Henry’s daughter, Ginny, and her husband Manning Smith III, their son, Manning IV, and their daughter Rowan Smith Watson, also continue to support Williamson. We thank the entire family and will continue to make sure their investment produces quality students as we have here today.”
Mark Specht 7W7 gave the invocation and benediction and the Artisans, under the direction of Sherre Gaertner, lead the audience in the singing of the alma mater.
At the conclusion of the program, everyone enjoyed a luncheon in the dining room prepared by Tim Burbage, director of food services, and served by students.