Bonanza in South Jersey

July 22, 1992

The gift of $100 million to Glassboro State College to create a college of engineering in southern New Jersey is a model of public-private partnership for economic development and of private fund solicitation by state institutions. It is also a bonanza for one small school of limited fame.

Henry M. Rowan, chairman-founder of Inductotherm, Inc., a high-tech manufacturer of Rancocas, N.J., and his wife Betty, have pledged to give $100 million over 10 years. In return, the school in the town of Glassboro, 20 miles southeast of Philadelphia and beyond its suburbs, has been renamed Rowan College of New Jersey. Alumni should be grateful not to have to call it Inductotherm Tech.

There have been huge gifts to privately endowed universities, great state research universities and private liberal arts colleges. This is the first of that magnitude to a lesser state institution, which began as a tiny teacher-training school in 1923. Since more American college undergraduates probably attend such institutions than any other kind, how Glassboro uses this gift will profoundly affect American education. Virtually every state institution in the country has geared up solicitation and is searching for its Rowan.

The designated uses of the Rowan gift are the college of engineering (pending state approval), visiting distinguished professorships and financial aid for children of Inductotherm employees. It may not be used for operating expenses or capital projects. In other words, Glassboro is to remain a state college (or, if it gets its way, university). Not one bit of responsibility is lifted from taxpayers. The jobs and programs cut in a tough budget year remain cut. The need for other gifts remains and should become easier to fulfill.

Beyond that, there are choices. Glassboro would ill-serve American education by trying to become just another research university. It should: increase professor-student contact to the best in the state sector; improve the admission standard and geographical intake while remaining primarily for New Jersey students; increase dramatically the top students (through merit scholarships and honors programs) and South Jersey minority students (through need-based aid); improve the study and cultural opportunities for residential and commuting students alike.

The gift will fail if it makes Glassboro an imitation Rutgers. The aim should be to make it the absolute best -- the Platonic ideal -- Glassboro State College. (Sorry, make that Rowan College.) That would be a model for the country's higher education and donor community to emulate.

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