Best Philanthropist 2014: Rich Rowley of New Paltz
He made his name as an entrepreneur in construction and the building supply biz, but ultimately, what will be Rich Rowley’s legacy in the Valley? His generosity.
“Education is one of my priorities,” says Rowley, who sold his company in 2006; for several years, he has been an enthusiastic supporter of SUNY Orange. Early on, he saw the benefits of attending a two-year college in jump-starting careers: “My oldest sister went to SUNY Orange straight out of high school, and had a phenomenal experience. I had many friends who weren’t sure what they were going to do, and got over to the campus. The experience they came out with turned them around. Many went on to a four-year school, came back to the Hudson Valley, and now they’re leaders and bank presidents. From that standpoint it interests me. It’s a county-wide organization so everyone benefits.”
Putting his money (and time) where his mouth is, Rowley — the college’s foundation board chairman — has helped to raise $25.1 million for the school. He also made a $1 million personal donation, which funded the Rowley Center for Science and Engineering, a 107,000-square-foot science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) center that opened on the Middletown campus last month.
Rowley is also involved with the Orange Regional Medical Center’s birthing center and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). His awareness of the facility’s needs harkens back to his father, who was chairman of the hospital in the 1990s. “Fortunately, when we built the new hospital [in 2011], I had the wherewithal to get a new birthing center going and getting it certified for NICU, which was a big thing for the area. We were sending our babies to Westchester for care; that was traumatic for them, and now they can stay in Middletown and be taken care of here. It’s pretty exciting,” says Rowley. “That NICU is pretty full all the time. My wife Marianne and I have been very blessed to be involved.”