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Rowland C. W. Brown

Brown Rowland C. W. Brown, 89, former CEO of Buckeye Steel and Online Computer Library Center, and a leader in the desegregation of Columbus schools in the 1970's, died on September 23 after a long battle with cancer. He passed away peacefully surrounded by family at First Community Village in Columbus. His wife of 67 years, Heather, was at his side. Rowland was born October 11, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Rhea Widrig and Chauncey Brown. He spent the first ten years of his life in Paris, France, before moving to New York City, where he attended the Quaker school, Friends Seminary. He was a 1941 graduate of Nyack (NY) High School where he met his wife of 67 years, Heather Sayre. He received his bachelor's degree in International Relations from Harvard in 1947 and his law degree from Harvard in 1950. Rowland's college studies were interrupted by World War II. He became a Marine Corps officer and fighter pilot at the end of the war, but his finest hours came later, when he re-entered the Marines to serve in Korea. Rowland flew the F9 Panther fighter-bomber at the height of the war, in the same renowned squadron as Sen. John Glenn and baseball legend Ted Williams. At the end of the Korean War, Major Brown retired from the Marine Corps with seven Air Medals, the Bronze Star with Combat "V", the Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation. Several years after his return from Korea, Rowland and Heather settled in Weston, CT and he was named President and CEO of Dorr-Oliver Inc., an international research, engineering and plant construction firm in Stamford, CT. In the 1970s Rowland and Heather and their family moved to Columbus where he became CEO of Buckeye International, a manufacturing conglomerate that at the time boasted the largest steel foundry in the world. During the final eight years of his business life, until retirement in 1988, he served as President and CEO of OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) in Dublin, OH, a role he described as the most satisfying management effort of his life. During his years in Columbus, he undertook numerous civic engagements, serving on the Boards of the Chamber of Commerce and Thurber House and, for more than two decades, on the Board of Ohio Dominican University. As the first President and Chairman of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, Rowland led successful efforts to save the Ohio Theater and, later, the Southern Theater. He was subsequently appointed by the Governor to the Ohio Arts Council. He was a member of Scioto Country Club and the Kit Kat Club. Perhaps Rowland's most important civic undertaking on behalf of the city of Columbus was his work during the 1970s in organizing and chairing the Metropolitan Columbus Schools Committee (MCSC), a group of business, religious and community leaders whose mission was the desegregation of Columbus public schools. At the time, school desegregation, as ordered by the U.S Supreme Court, had become a violent affair in several northern cities. Rowland and his committee were determined that desegregation in Columbus would not only be peaceful, but that Columbus would become a model for desegregation across the United States. Over a period of several years MCSC, under Rowland's leadership, led Columbus in implementing the largest peaceful desegregation of public schools in America to that date, drawing praise from across the country and a commendation from the U.S. Justice Department. Rowland received many awards for his community service, including honorary degrees from Ohio Dominican and Franklin Universities, the Columbus Mayor's Medal of Honor, and citations from the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Jewish Philanthropies, The Anti-Defamation League, the Ohio Chapter of the National Social Workers, the Columbus Urban League and the Defense Construction and Supply Center in Columbus. Rowland and Heather had a passion for both tennis and travel. They won numerous club doubles titles, mostly thanks to Heather he would proudly admit. They travelled the world for both business and pleasure, with one highlight being their visit to then West Berlin where they witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. In addition to his wife Heather, Rowland is survived by his daughters Stephanie Kugelman (Edward Vick) of New York City, and Kathleen Brown (Kevin Whalen) of Boston; daughter-in-law Lynne Breslin of New York City; and six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. In addition to his two daughters, Rowland was pre-deceased by his son Geoffrey in 1995. A memorial service will be held November 10, 2013 at 2 p.m. at First Community Church, 1320 Cambridge Blvd., Upper Arlington. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to any of the following charities that were meaningful to Rowland: The , Central Ohio Chapter, www.alz.org/centralohio, Kirwan Institute of the Study of Race and Ethnicity, www.kirwaninstitute.osu.edu, First Community Foundation http://fcchurch.com/foundation


Published in The Columbus Dispatch on Sept. 29, 2013
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