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He was born to Dr. Henry M. Rowan Sr. and Margaret Frances Boyd Rowan in 1923 (coincidentally the same year the school which now carries his name was founded). After serving his country as a bomber pilot in World War II, Rowan graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with honors with a degree in electrical engineering.
Henry originally worked for Ajax Electrothermic Corporation of Trenton, New Jersey. He suggested improvements to the furnaces made by Ajax - shorter power leads and heavier copper bus bar - but the company did not implement his suggestions. Henry left Ajax and decided to start his own company, Inductotherm Corp. Mr. Rowan designed and built his first induction furnace in his home's garage in 1953 with the help of his wife. Expanding from this first induction furnace Rowan created Inductotherm Industries Inc. which has since grown to include 80 subsidiaries throughout North America, South America, Europe, India, Asia and Australia. Today, there are more than 27,000 Inductotherm induction melting installations worldwide and they account for more than half of the melting systems in the world today.
In spring 1992, Henry Rowan and his wife Betty Rowan pledged $100 million to Glassboro State College, which has been renamed Rowan University in his honor. At the time it was the largest gift to a public college in the history of higher education. The school also has an engineering building named after him.
Rowan competed in the 1992 Olympic Sailing trials in Miami, but failed to qualify. Mr. Rowan wrote an autobiography entitled "The Fire Within" in 1995, with John Calhoun Smith.