GLASSBORO, N.J. (AP) — Henry Rowan, whose 1992 gift of $100 million to what is now Rowan University was the largest ever to a public institution of higher education, has died. He was 92.
Rowan University spokesman Joe Cardona said Thursday Rowan died Wednesday at an assisted living facility in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Rowan and his wife, Betty Long Rowan, donated $100 million to what was then known as Glassboro State College.
The donation helped the college grow from a small school with fewer than 10,000 students to the state's second comprehensive public research university, with five campuses, more than 11 colleges and 16,100 students.
The gift also helped grow the school's assets from $787,000 to more than $177 million.
Gov. Chris Christie called Rowan "one of the greatest philanthropists of our time" in a statement, and Rowan University President Ali Houshmand said the school has lost a "champion of innovation and philanthropy."
"Henry Rowan's spirit will forever encourage our vision, animate our work and prompt us to make a difference in others' lives," Houshmand said in a statement.
A native of Ridgewood, Bergen County, Rowan founded Inductotherm Group in 1953 along with his wife, Betty Long Rowan. The Rancocas-based company manufactures a variety of furnaces used in metal melting. Today the company and its sister firms employ 3,500 people in more than 20 countries.
Rowan graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but wanted to invest in a community where he felt it would have the biggest effect, according to the university.
In 1992, Glassboro State College's board voted to change the school's name to Rowan College after the Rowan donation. In 1996, the school began its engineering program and became a university the following year.
"He's a fascinating man— one of the smartest people I ever met," said Anthony Lowman, dean of the engineering college. Lowman added that Rowan believed deeply in science, technology and engineering education and that he hopes the school is training "the next Henry Rowan."
During World War II Rowan enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet and trained to become a bomber pilot, flying B-17s and B-29s, but the war ended before he could fly in combat.
Rowan was a pilot and sailor, a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame and a competitor in the 1992 Olympic Star Class sailboat racing trials in Miami.
Rowan's daughter, Virginia Smith, said most people knew her father because of the donation to the college, but he was also a big supporter of Boy Scouting and other educational institutions.
"My father once said, 'Make a difference, make this world a better place because you lived in it.' It's safe to say he succeeded," she said in a statement.