Mark M. Chamberlain, former Rowan president

Mark M. Chamberlain wasa "visionary leader," the Rowan president said.
Mark M. Chamberlain wasa "visionary leader," the Rowan president said.
Posted: April 02, 2014

Mark M. Chamberlain, 82, a former Rowan University chemistry professor who served as the school's president for 15 change-filled years when it was Glassboro State College, died of natural causes Saturday, March 29.

Dr. Chamberlain, a resident of Williamstown for the last 26 years, is credited with leading the growth of the school from a teachers' college to a multipurpose institution from 1969 to 1984.

"Mark was a wonderful and caring man and visionary leader who helped position the university for the growth and change it has enjoyed in recent years," said Rowan president Ali A. Houshmand. "We all owe Dr. Chamberlain our deepest gratitude for his service to our university."

Under Dr. Chamberlain's leadership, full-time enrollment more than doubled from 3,529 in fall 1968 to 8,788 in fall 1984. Nine buildings were built or purchased, five more were renovated, and on-campus beds increased from 900 to 2,700.

Dr. Chamberlain supervised development of three new academic divisions and encouraged the start of a dozen new major programs, many minors, and two educational specialist programs.

Under his guidance, minority student enrollment grew, as did the number of women and minority faculty.

"He had an open-door policy, which I took full advantage," retired lawyer Amanda Koon wrote on a Glassboro State/Rowan black alumni Facebook page. "A fair man."

Dr. Chamberlain is also credited with steering the college through the turbulent 1970s and early 1980s, managing to avoid the chaos and disturbances that played out on many other campuses.

"He was a steady hand through that great unrest," said Robert Zazzali, now university vice president and the current president's chief of staff.

Rather than suppressing dissent, Dr. Chamberlain would encourage open discussion of ideas, including divergent ones, said Zazzali, a student when Dr. Chamberlain came to Glassboro. He went on to become an employee and a friend.

The best interest of the students was always foremost to Dr. Chamberlain, and Zazzali said it was fitting the university's student center was named in his honor in 2006.

"He was just a very warm, cordial, and sweet man," Zazzali said.

And he stayed committed to Rowan. After he left the presidency, he stayed and taught chemistry until June 2000. He continued to attend commencements and other school events.

"We tried to attend as many events as he could," said his wife, Barbara.

"He loved the community," she said. "He loved that there was so much room for growth."

Dr. Chamberlain was born in Rhode Island, and his family moved to the Pittsburgh area when he was a boy, she said.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Franklin and Marshall College and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Illinois.

He was a volunteer firefighter in Glassboro, as well as an active member of the Friends of Gettysburg National Park and St. Mark's at the Crossing Church. He was also a member of the American Chemical Society.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Chamberlain is survived by five children, 10 grandchildren, and five great-granddaughters.

A viewing will be Wednesday, April 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Norton Funeral Home, 1232 S. Black Horse Pike, Williamstown. The funeral service and burial will be private.

Donations may be made the Mark and Barbara Chamberlain Endowment Fund, which supports research in chemistry and biochemistry as well as an award for emergency medical service, online at rufoundation.org or mailed to the Rowan University Foundation, 201 Mullica Hill Rd., Glassboro, N.J. 08028.


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rgiordano@phillynews.com

@ritagiordano

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