Rowan president inaugurated amid accolades

Ali Houshmand, being officially inaugurated as president of Rowan University, is joined on stage by New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Rochelle Hendricks, state secretary of higher education. Article on B1.
Ali Houshmand, being officially inaugurated as president of Rowan University, is joined on stage by New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Rochelle Hendricks, state secretary of higher education. Article on B1. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 22, 2013

Rowan University president Ali Houshmand, in a formal inauguration Friday, shared his vision of continued growth and advancement for the school and its community.

Houshmand, who has served as interim president and president since 2011, also talked about how far Rowan had come, including two medical schools; achieving research institution status; increasing endowment, scholarships, enrollment, and programs; and executing a $300 million private-public community development initiative with Glassboro, all without raising tuition this year.

Though some of those achievements, including the community development project, were in the works before Houshmand took the helm, many on Friday credited his leadership with bringing the efforts along. Houshmand credited the university community he is part of.

"Only an extraordinary institution can reach our level in 90 years," Houshmand, 58, said. "Only a dynamic institution can lead. I know we can accomplish our goals."

Among those goals, he said, are growing from 14,000 students to 25,000 and expanding from about $24 million in funded research to $100 million in 10 years, increasing graduate programs, and serving as an economic engine for South Jersey.

He vowed that tuition and fees would never increase more than the rate of inflation while he is president.

On a more personal note, he spoke of his "humble" beginnings in Iran, one of 10 children whose father for a while supported the family selling buckets of water for pennies. He extolled the power of education, as well as his love of this country and gratitude for his citizenship.

From the stage of Rowan's Pfleeger Concert Hall, where the inauguration took place, notables such as state Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, and Rowan board of trustees chairwoman Linda Rohrer sang their praises of the university's seventh president.

His performance also got positive reviews from students and faculty members on campus Friday.

"It's been a marvelous expansion of the university," journalism professor Carl Hausman said. "The place is almost unrecognizable from when I came" 17 years ago.

"He has been extremely effective," said Leslie Spencer, a professor of health and exercise science. "I think Rowan is changing dramatically . . . and he is instrumental in making that happen."

"It's nice working in an environment where there is a good plan," said Jordan Howell, who started work as a geography and environmental science professor several weeks ago. He was attracted by Rowan's emphasis on research as well as good undergraduate teaching, he said.

Several students said they felt Rowan, with its medical schools and other changes, had grown in prestige.

"I feel like we're becoming a closer community and we're expanding. We're becoming more popular among other colleges, and that's a good feeling," said Shalyn Branghan, a mechanical engineering major from Union.

Students also said Houshmand was no stranger at their functions, and they liked that.

"President Houshmand is really involved with the students," said Deanna Bertini, an education and humanities and social science major from Merrick, N.Y.

"He's definitely been a face in the community," said Brandon Thomas, a law and justice major from Willingboro. A senior, Thomas said he liked the changes he had detected: expanded programs, more diversity, new buildings. His only complaint: That it didn't happen sooner for him to enjoy.


>Inquirer.com

For more photos from the inauguration ceremony, go to www.inquirer.com/

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Contact Rita Giordano at 856-779-3893, rgiordano@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ritagiordano.

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