Conservancy Remembers Conservationist and Major Benefactor

Photo: Henry Rowan and his daughter, Virginia Rowan Smith, at the dedication ceremony of the Margaret Boyd Rowan Preserve, July 10, 1999. A ribbon cutting unveiled the 6-foot by 3-foot plaque on Slim Point in Silver Bay, memorializing the Preserve, which is directly across the lake from the Silver Bay YMCA campus.

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2015


Henry M. Rowan, an inspiring philanthropist and conservationist who made a lasting impact on the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) and Lake George itself, passed away on December 9, 2016. He was 92.

Mr. Rowan was introduced to Lake George at an early age by his mother, Margaret Boyd Rowan, who had brought her children to the lake first to camp, and later to spend summers at a family cottage she had built on land she purchased in 1937 in Silver Bay. The cottage has been enjoyed ever since by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Margaret also instilled a sense of conservation in her son, and in 1990 Henry Rowan and his first wife, Betty, made a generous challenge gift of $250,000 towards the protection of a 168-acre property on the northeastern shore of Lake George. The land, which includes 4,470 feet of shoreline, is the centerpiece of more than three miles of protected shoreline that was the focus of a major cooperative conservation effort undertaken by LGLC, the Silver Bay Association, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy and Adirondack Land Trust, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Henry Rowan

Henry Rowan speaking at LGLC’s Land and Water Conservation Celebration, August 4, 2003, after receiving the inaugural “Henry M. Rowan Conservation Award” in recognition for his significant support and leadership in the conservation of Lake George. The award is LGLC’s highest honor, and has been given each year since to individuals, families and organizations that have made their own significant efforts towards the protection of the lake and its watershed.

That 168-acre property was sold to New York State in 1994, and dedicated on July 10, 1999 as the Margaret Boyd Rowan Preserve, in honor of Mr. Rowan’s mother and her love for Lake George.

Since that first gift, the Rowan family has continued to support LGLC, contributing more than $2 million for land conservation projects throughout the Lake George basin, and providing invaluable leadership and inspiration for others to contribute as well. The family legacy of caring for the lands and waters of Lake George is continued by his daughter, Virginia “Ginny” Rowan Smith, who has been an advisory board member with LGLC since 2000 and, with her husband, Manning, has also been a major financial supporter.

LGLC Executive Director Jamie Brown, who has been with the organization since January 2015, expressed his condolences to the Rowan family and admiration for Mr. Rowan’s legacy. “Even during my short time with LGLC,” he said, “I have seen the immense impact that Mr. Rowan had on the entire region. He was a leader, both financially and in character, and it is because of his actions that hundreds of critical acres around Lake George are forever protected.”

LGLC Board President John Macionis said, “Hank was determined to live his life making a difference. All the things we celebrate about Hank’s life had one common element—opening the doors of

possibility for others. This included encouraging his friends and neighbors to step up to lake protection by offering to match their donations.”

In fact, it was Mr. Rowan’s efforts towards protection of the Margaret Boyd Rowan Preserve that pushed the Lake George Land Conservancy into the successful organization it is today.

“Mr. Rowan inspired generations of others to also give towards the protection of that land,” said Brown, “many of whom are still supporting our work today. Without that show of confidence in us, and validation of the need for conservation, we wouldn’t have had as much success over the years.”

Mr. Rowan was an engineer and industrialist whose ingenuity and hard work resulted in the creation of a new induction furnace that would revolutionize the industry. Today, his company, Inductotherm, provides melting and thermal-processing technology for the metals industry worldwide.

In addition to his significant contributions towards conservation, Mr. Rowan was also a major benefactor in education, gifting more than $130 million to schools and youth organizations in southern New Jersey. A 1992 gift of $100 million to what was then Glassboro State College transformed the school and resulted in its being renamed Rowan University in his honor. (Click here to read more from Rowan University)

Mr. Rowan was a veteran of the Army Air Corps and a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He was a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame, and he competed in the 1992 Olympic sailing trials in Miami. He published his autobiography, “The Fire Within,” in 1995. In addition to his daughter, Mr. Rowan is survived by his wife, Lee; two grandchildren; and a sister.