Mr. Rowan Hopes Rutgers Merger Won't Mean the Loss of His Name

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rowan University (Nancy Solomon/NJPR)

The monied benefactor after whom Rowan University is named said he doesn’t want the New Jersey school to lose its namesake if it merges with Rutgers-Camden.

Henry Rowan, 86, gave $100 million to Glassboro State College – the largest single private gift to a university in U.S. history at the time – which changed its name in his honor after receiving the gift in 1992.

Now, Governor Chris Christie is proposing a makeover of New Jersey’s higher education system that merges Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University.

The announcement of a Rutgers-Rowan merger has put the spotlight on a South Jersey institution that many residents didn’t even know was a state school.

The faculty, students and alumni at Rutgers-Camden want to retain the Rutgers name. But that’s something Rowan University can’t give up.

“I’d rather that didn’t happen,” said Henry Rowan, 86, the founder of Inductotherm Industries, which he started in his garage and grew into the world’s largest maker of induction heating and melting equipment for both industrial and military uses.

“We started some years ago to form and support the Rowan name for education, and I’m not anxious to change it.”

Rowan lives in Feasterville-Trevose, Pa., a bucolic town about 30 minutes West of Trenton in a large stucco house that overlooks an expanse of woods and pasture.

The money transformed Glassboro State, and Rowan’s vision of establishing a top notch engineering school has come to pass.  

A merger with Rutgers University-Camden would take the school to the next level by capitalizing on “pockets of excellence” in both institutions, said Joe Cardona, spokesman of Rowan University.  

Keeping the Rowan name isn’t just about honoring the gift, Cardona said, it’s also about keeping independent control and not being dominated by the central campus of Rutgers in New Brunswick.

“We see the problems that lie right now with that relationship between Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-New Brunswick and Rutgers-Newark,” Cardona said. “We see there are flaws in that and us depending in South Jersey on North Jersey institutions to invest in South Jersey.”

Cardona said the merger would keep more students in state and contribute to economic growth in South Jersey. The region has the fewest number of residents with college degrees in the state, and lower-than average incomes.

But Joni Finney, director of the Institute for Research in Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said the merger is less about serving the needs of students and more about political deal-making.

“That’s how this whole thing got started, a deal between a powerful Democrat in the state and a powerful Republican governor,” Finney said. “And I think the state needs to step back from this and really look at what does New Jersey need from its higher education system.”

Most Rutgers student and faculty members on campus want to keep the Rutgers name.

“We would not be as strong as we are now,” said Ray Solomon, dean of the law school at Rutgers-Camden. “We recruit nationally now and we wouldn’t be in a position to do that as well. As least in the short run.”

Christie is pushing to get the entire reorganization plan approved by the legislature by July. And he has successfully split the Democratic majority in the legislature because South Jersey Democrats, believing it will crate a bigger, better university for the region, support the Rutgers-Rowan merger.

That might be all the governor needs to push his plan through.

Critics say Christie hasn’t provided enough details about what the reorganization  would cost.  And even Rowan’s benefactor, Henry Rowan, isn’t concerned about expanding the school.

“I don’t really care whether they do or not,” Rowan said. “I think it will make it a somewhat more powerful college, but I don’t think that’s necessary to have a good education.”


Correction: WNYC originally reported that Governor Chris Christie was proposing a makeover of New Jersey’s higher education system that would move the medical school out of Newark and merge Rutgers-Camden with Rowan. This is incorrect. The governor is proposing the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick become part of Rutgers' main campus, and that the university hospital in Newark be run by a private-public partnership.


Comments [9]

the_hme from Jersey City, NJ

Not to worry Rowan, we won't allow the merger!!! Alumni, UNITE!!!

Apr. 25 2012 02:19 PM
Roger Cohen from Bloomfield NJ

The issues bedeviling NJ's state college system are a generation in the making and entail both chronically inadequate public funding and a failure of governance from Trenton, allowing the individual schools too much autonomy and too little guidance. This two-pronged problem is now playing out big-time in the Rowan Rutgers/Camden debate. For a clear look at the underlying root, read Richard Roper's short commentary, "NJ State Colleges’ Experiment In Autonomy Demonstrates Boomerang Principle At Work,"

Apr. 25 2012 11:52 AM

Also isn't part of this merger boondogle to move UMDNJ from Newark to south Jersey for no good reason? What's the point of that other than to give Christie's cronies some fat contracts and put some Newark real estate on the market? Why do people vote for tax and spend Republicans?

Apr. 25 2012 10:26 AM

Ms. Solomon couldn't get some facts right. Rutgers-Camden community (students, staff, faculty, alumni) is against the merger. It is not a name issue, they want to stay part of Rutgers "in fact and in name". They have no desire to be part of the abominable creation Governor Christie is proposing whatever the name!

Most of the people at Rowan, with the exception of top administration, are against or completely indifferent!

Apr. 25 2012 09:55 AM
J.T. Barbarese from Somerset NJ

Having underreported the story for four months, it's now being misreported. To reiterate some of the above: (1) Rutgers-Camden is virtually unanimous in its opposition to a corporate take-over restyled a "merger" (the term is the governor's); (2) the Rowan faculty is working without contracts, a fact that probably has led to the silence on this issue from that very important quarter; (3) the democratic power-broker who is not otherwise named just bought the Philadelphia Inquirer, which has also either under-reported or buried this story; (4) both Rowan and Rutgers-Camden are good schools with vastly different strengths, the latter a research university and the former dedicated to producing strong teachers; (5) without some appreciation of point 4 or recognition that neither the Rutgers-Camden nor Rowan faculty were consulted, a reporter is bound to miss the implications of point 3. There's a Pulitzer out there for any writer with the courage to actually explore what is going on here.

Apr. 25 2012 07:11 AM
Marianne Modica

Where has this reporter been for the past several months? Her assertion that "most people on campus don’t mind the merger plan, but they want to keep the Rutgers name" is way off-base in two important ways. First, "most people" at Rutgers-Camden do "mind" the idea of their campus, a research institution, being subsumed by Rowan University, a teaching institution. They mind very, very, much, as evidenced by the public outcry that would be hard to miss by anyone interested in the matter. Second, what we at Rutgers-Camden "mind" is not simply the loss of the Rutgers name, but the reputation and resources that stand behind that name. Rutgers-Camden is part of the Rutgers system - always has been, and always should be.

Apr. 25 2012 06:39 AM
Endangered Raptor

I am assuming that this statement refers to the Rowan campus: "Most people on campus don’t mind the merger plan, but they want to keep the Rutgers name." and should actually say keep the ROWAN name, because there is complete opposition to this merger from everyone on the Rutgers-Camden campus, with a petition ( with over 13,000 signatures against the merger. Kudos to Joni Finney for seeing this for what it really is.

Apr. 25 2012 06:39 AM
Jonelle from Camden

Changing the name of Glassboro State College to Rowan College wasn't a stipulation of the Rowan Gift.

See page 3 from Rowan University's own magazine:

The Herman James, president of Glassboro SC, the administration and others decided to propose the name change.

Apr. 25 2012 01:26 AM
Andrew Shankman from Camden, NJ

This article has several mistakes. To a person, everyone at Rutgers-Camden is opposed to merging with Rowan in any form. We do not want to become one university either known as Rowan or as Rutgers-Camden. Mr. Rowan has an ally in those of us at Rutgers-Camden who want Rowan to keep its name and remain a separate and independent university from Rutgers-Camden. It's interesting that the only person who can speak of support of Rowan taking over Rutgers-Camden in this article is the Rowan paid spokesman Joe Cardona, who earns his keep by saying what he's told and staying on message. Meanwhile an independent third party with no stake in the matter from the University of Pennsylvania sees this push for what it is, a land and resource grab but the Rowan Administration, which has overspent and placed Rowan in serious financial danger, betraying the good intentions and efforts of Mr. Rowan as it does so. As I said this is a bizarre article. Mr. Rowan's quote at the end shows indifference to Rowan's expansion, which the article describes as an absence of concern. And all you need to do is spend 5 minutes on the Rutgers-Camden campus to know that we simply do not want to be merged into Rowan, whatever form a merger would take.

Apr. 25 2012 01:17 AM

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