Henry Rowan did great things because he wanted to make the world a better place, but he also held the people he helped accountable, Dr. Phillip Tumminia said in his keynote speech during the Henry Rowan Day event in the Clara Schrek Memorial Chapel recently.
“He helped Williamson because he believed in your mission and as a consequence, this school is better for it,” said Tumminia, who as the executive vice president for institutional advancement at Glassboro State College helped obtain Rowan’s gift to the college of $100 million in 1992.
He added, “You should thank Henry Rowan for his generosity, but you need to also thank the people here who are using the money he donated correctly.”
Pointing to the students, Tumminia said, “Henry Rowan’s generosity is going to help all of you. It’s going to help you get a job because employers know the quality of the school. At Rowan, it changed everything and it probably did here also. All of you are benefiting because of the gifts of others.”
Rowan’s gift to Glassboro State College transformed the school from a small, unknown teacher’s college to an institution of higher education known internationally. The money he gave was used to upgrade the School of Engineering into a top-notch program. Because of Rowan’s generosity, more large gifts came in from other donors. In honor of Henry Rowan’s gift, Glassboro was renamed Rowan University.
In explaining how he obtained the transformational gift from Rowan, which at the time was the largest gift ever given to an institution of higher education, Tumminia said he visited Rowan many times, coming up empty handed, but never giving up.
Tumminia said in the early 1990s, Glassboro’s goal was to be transformed into a regionally prominent, undergraduate institution, where students could complete their program and get a job in their field and advance professionally. “We worked very hard to make this happen, but it takes money.”
As Tumminia and his staff were working to raise the money to meet their goal, someone on Glassboro’s board suggested he try to obtain a substantial gift from Henry Rowan. “I had never heard of him and was told it would be impossible to even arrange a visit with him.” After getting an appointment, he was told that Rowan would never give a gift to Glassboro.
Tumminia visited Rowan many times in his office, always coming up empty handed. He said Rowan was always a gentleman, but laughed each time he asked for a donation, saying he would never give to Glassboro because it was not a significant school. Finally, after many fruitless visits, Rowan made a gift – $1,500. But still, he did not give up.
Tumminia said, “Hank was convinced no one outside of southern New Jersey had even heard of Glassboro State College so, as he was giving me a tour of his plant, he stopped and asked an employee what he thinks of Glassboro State College. The person responded ‘That’s the best institution of higher education anywhere. My daughter is graduating this year and already has a job. I love the place.’ I’m convinced to this day that random incident changed Hank’s mind about giving to Glassboro. ”
“After Rowan gave us the gift of $100 million, all of a sudden we were on the map. Everyone wanted to know what is going on at Glassboro. This happens, even here at Williamson. When you start having relationships with people who donate money in large amounts, people say ‘That must be a good school.’ ”
In his introduction of Tumminia, President Michael Rounds said “Williamson and Rowan University have several connections. Students in the carpentry, electrical, and masonry programs now have the option of selecting a construction management academic track during their senior year. Courses in this track are directly aligned with Rowan University courses allowing students to simultaneously receive dual credit at Rowan. Through this innovative agreement, upon graduation from Williamson, students need only to complete a few additional classes at Rowan University to earn a bachelor’s degree. And, of course, the most significant connection is that both of our school’s benefited by the generosity of Henry Rowan.”
In his welcoming remarks, Rounds said “We are holding this 6th Annual Rowan Day to honor Henry Rowan and his family and to celebrate philanthropy, the charitable giving that makes Williamson possible. Today we honor Henry Rowan, his family, and the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation. The generosity of the Rowan family has helped grow and improve every part of Williamson.
“Without Hank Rowan’s major gift of 15 years ago and subsequent gifts by his wife Lee and the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation Williamson may not have even been able to stay open and it certainly would have looked different than it does today. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Rowans and all generous donors who make it possible for us to continue to educate and train Williamson men today and in the future.”
He then introduced Michael Piotrowicz, Williamson’s longest serving trustee, to deliver the trustee remarks. “Mike is the person who introduced Hank and Lee Rowan to Williamson. Hank and Lee and the Rowan M. Family Foundation are second only to our founder Isaiah Williamson as benefactors of Williamson. That is why we named this building Rowan Hall and established Rowan Day as an annual event. Without Mike the path of the Rowan family and Williamson would never have intersected.”
Piotrowicz said, “It’s always a great day to be at Williamson, but today to me is extra special. It’s a day to thank and reflect on Hank Rowan and his generosity and the continual generosity of the Rowan family and, on the behalf of the board of trustees, to express our thanks.”
Piotrowicz said he had three main points to make. The first is to remember the man, who he was and what he did for us. The second is to give special thanks to the Rowans and their continued support and all they do for Williamson. The third is to focus on how fortunate all of us are to be affiliated with this great institution. It is a special place.”
He said he was very fortunate to have known Henry Rowan. “I learned many valuable life lessons from him. He was in the furnace business and went to work for a company. He had some innovative ideas and they were not listening to him. So, he mortgaged his house, put everything on the line, and started his own furnace company in his garage. Now Hank’s company is the biggest furnace company in the world. But, it’s not just his business side, it’s the values side and the way he lived and what he believed in. That is what drew him to Williamson.
“He believed in education, our core values, and the opportunity that can be created for every one of you sitting here today. He believed we need to build really good Americans, good strong men who can carry values and character into the world. He was in his heart, a Williamson Man.”
Piotrowicz then said, “As chair of the board’s advancement group, something special happened this year. Donald and Dorthy Stabler established the Stabler Fund that provides money to scholarships. Each year, the senior class is asked to pledge to support Williamson after graduation through the Stabler Challenge. This year, the Class of 2W3, did something pretty amazing – they had a 100 percent participation with a pledge amount of $9,255. This is a class that recognizes and appreciates their scholarship.”
He then invited Jason Minch, senior class president, to the podium and presented him with a check for $10,000, made payable to Williamson, as a matching gift to be used by his class toward their class gift to the school or some other way. “I know you will come through on this pledge. I did this because Henry Rowan wanted to do that, but he wouldn’t have given the money until the pledge was fulfilled. I trust you guys are going to do it.”
Other parts of the event included Rev. Mark Specht 7W7 giving the invocation and benediction and the Artisans leading the group in the singing of the alma mater to close the ceremony.
Pictured in the first group photo (from left to right) are: Mark Specht 7W7, chaplain; Tony Lowan, provost of Rowan University; Manning James Smith IV, Henry Rowan’s grandson; Dr. Phillip Tumminia, retired executive vice president for institutional advancement at Rowan University; Michael Piotrowicz, Williamson trustee; and President Michael Rounds.
Pictured in the second group photo (from left to right) are: President Michael Rounds, and trustees Richard Clemens, James Obermeier, Kenneth Wong, John Lawton, David Watson, Heather Hassel-Finnegan, and Michael Piotrowicz.