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Money Invested In People—A Gift That Keeps On Giving

We’ve blogged about the priority need and benefits of building a full engineering school in the Wilmington Region affiliated with UNCW. Two recent blogs described how Cornell Tech, recently built on Roosevelt Island in NYC by Cornell University and Technion, has immediately become part of the NYC TechHub, spawning new jobs, businesses and economic development.


Now, let’s look at how a philanthropists gift caused a dramatic turnaround and economic driver in the obscure college town of Glassboro NJ. The college president is on record as saying “it would have been an average, local who-cares college were it not for the gift. Now look at what it is.”


Glassboro State College was that “who-cares” college until MIT electrical engineering grad Henry M. Rowan made a $100M gift to it in 1992, the largest such gift given any public school to that date. The gift made national and international news and in the retrospective words of The New York Times, “was transformative”.


Rowan had grown up in NJ and became very successful there, wanted to give back, and had been solicited by Glassboro in several modest and growing increments. Rowan believed a $100M gift “would not have the impact at MIT that it will have at Glassboro.”


One Stipulation— An Engineering School

Rowan asked only for the creation of an Engineering School in return for his gift. Glassboro responded by changing its name to Rowan College, expanding faculty; scholarships and degree offerings, becoming Rowan University in 1997. The change and growth resulting from Rowan’s vision is today a “public research university.” The Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering is ranked a very respectable 23rd by US News in it’s 2019 category of “Best Undergraduate Engineering Schools” nationally.


UNCW, under Dr. Sartarelli, is aggressively pursuing philanthropic gift sources and our region would benefit just like New York City or Glassboro NJ from finding one individual or institution to endow and name an engineering school at UNCW. What are we as a region doing to help in this search? We consistently remind how much can be accomplished when we work together to accomplish shared goals. Leaders, step forward and let’s make this happen!



Rowan Hall at Rowan University, home of the College of Engineering and its nationally recognized engineering programs.

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Renaissance Wilmington Foundation

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