HALL OF HONOR 2003: Henry M. Rowan

Nov. 18, 2003
Founder and Chairman, Inductotherm Group

Since 1992, the editors of FOUNDRY Management & Technology have taken the opportunity every September to honor those men and women who have made significant contributions to the foundry industry. In continuation of this tradition, we are pleased to recognize an outstanding individual who has made important contributions both to the company he founded, and to the metalcasting industry.

During his nearly 50-year career, he has been instrumental in developing less expensive and more efficient methods of melting metal. In addition, he has worked to encourage young people to pursue careers in the metalcasting industry. He now joins our elite group of entrepreneurs, engineers, executives, researchers, and educators, all of whom have indelibly made their marks on our industry.

Dean M. Peters, Editor

One of the great aspects of the foundry industry is the number of family-owned, small operations that characterize it. What’s even better is when such a company makes it on a big scale. Such is the story of this year's inductee, Henry M. Rowan, chairman and founder of Inductotherm Group, Rancocas, NJ. Henry (“Hank”) and his wife started their company in 1954 when they built the company’s first furnace in their backyard. From this inauspicious beginning, Inductotherm has become a global organization consisting of 88 companies, employing 4,000 people, and recording annual sales in excess of $600 million.

Certainly, Inductotherm could not have achieved such success without the leadership of Henry Rowan. Hank, a native of Raphine, VA, was raised in Ridgewood, NJ. Following his graduation from Deerfield Academy, he attended Williams College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before interrupting his studies to enlist in the Army Air Corps in 1943. After earning silver pilot wings and a 2nd Lieutenant’s commission, Hank piloted both B-17s and B-29s. After the war, he returned to MIT where he received his B.S.E.E. with honors in 1947.

As Hank built his company over the years, his main goal remained the same: to enable foundries to reduce the cost of melting metal with induction. On the way to making that dream a reality, Hank and his staff became true innovators and changed the face of the industry. Such contributions include the toroidal (The Tri-Line), a self-stabilized frequency tripler that broadened the application of 180 cycle power melting to iron, brass, and the growing vacuum melting industry; the first commercially practical, all solid-state induction power inverter — the VIP, introduced in 1968 — which increased the efficiency and reduced the size of induction inverters by using silicon controlled rectifiers (SCRs); in 1976, the company introduced its VIP Power-Trak family of inverters that made it possible to apply full inverter power from cold charge to all molten; and in the mid-1980s, the company pioneered the concept of high-power density batch melting, and offered equipment such as the VIP Power Trak inverter, which enabled foundries to produce the supply of molten metal they needed with less investment in capital equipment and with greater alloy flexibility. Hank personally holds six patents.

He also has contributed in other ways to the foundry industry, particularly in the area of education. He made a significant donation for the foundation of an engineering school, now Rowan University, near Inductotherm headquarters, and provides scholarships for children of employees. His commitment to the industry has not gone unnoticed and he has been the recipient of a number of awards including: the George Washington Medal Award from the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia (1992); Outstanding Engineer of the Year (1994) and a Lifetime Achievement Award (1995), Professional Engineering Society of Southern New Jersey Inc; the AFS William J. Grede Award (1995); a Distinguished Service Award, Consulting Engineers Council of New Jersey (1997); the William Hunt Eisenman Award, Philadelphia Chapter, ASM International (1997); and in 1998 he was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering.

Hank is a world-class sailor who competes regularly in the Star Class. In 1992, he participated in the Star Class Olympic trials simply for the thrill of the competition. He also is a certified jet pilot. Currently, Hank lives a few miles from Inductotherm’s headquarters and is still active in the business. He has one daughter and two grandchildren living nearby.