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Robert S. Rowe, who guided the Vanderbilt School of Engineering in the 1960s from a mostly technical training unit to one that offered graduate degrees and whose faculty engaged in advance research, died Nov. 3 in Sebring, Fla. He was 87.
A civil engineer with a doctoral degree from Yale University, Rowe was appointed dean after being recruited to Vanderbilt from Duke University in 1960. At the time of his hiring, engineering students had limited involvement with the other undergraduate school, the College of Arts and Science. In his history of Vanderbilt University, Gone with the Ivy, Paul K. Conkin categorized the school at that time as “a good training school for mid-level professionals, almost all of whom gained excellent jobs upon graduation.”
With funding from the Ford Foundation, Rowe was able to upgrade faculty salaries and attract faculty with advanced degrees and research interests. The engineering curriculum was revised so that students took more required and elective courses in the College of Arts and Science. The school also expanded its degree offerings to include master of science and Ph.D. programs in electrical, civil, chemical and mechanical engineering.
Rowe resigned as dean in 1970 and was named Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, Emeritus, and Dean of the School of Engineering, Emeritus.
A native of Wilmington, Del., Rowe earned his bachelor of civil engineering in 1942 from the University of Delaware, his master of science from Columbia University in 1949 and master of engineering in 1950 from Yale University. In 1951, he completed his doctor of engineering at Yale.
He was a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Concrete Institute and the American Society for Engineering Education. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Rowe had lived in Sebring since moving from Nashville in 1991.
He is survived by his wife, Emma Jean Rowe; and sons, William E. Rowe and Robert S. Rowe, all of Sebring; two sisters and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Media Contact: Elizabeth P. Latt, (615) 322-NEWS