As a remembrance of our colleague Professor Emeritus Don Rowney, who recently passed away, we share below Dr. Doug Forsyth’s eulogy with minor edits for brevity. We thank Dr. Forsyth for sharing the text.
As early as my on-campus job interview at Bowling Green, in spring 1996, it became clear to me that Don Rowney was the faculty member at the university who was most interested in having me as a colleague. My wife, Mercedes, and I drove out to northwest Ohio in early summer of 1996, as I looked for a place to live. Don and Susan invited us over for dinner, and I paid my first visit to the Old West End Historical District in Toledo, where Don and Susan were living, where Susan is still living, and where I would go on to live for twenty-four years and counting. I still remember vividly that dinner, on the porch behind Don and Susan’s house, and in particular one detail. Don asked Mercedes, who was and is a professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, why she had accompanied me on the long drive out to the Midwest as I looked for a place to live. ‘Do you think I’m going to leave my husband back here, without making sure it’s a decent place?’ she quipped. Don looked at her with this peculiar expression of delight he sometimes had, when someone said something unexpected, and in his view particularly amusing—it was the first, but not the last time I saw that expression on his face. And that sealed it—he and Mercedes became friends for life. Mercedes and I made life-long friends in the Old West End, and in many cases they were already friends of Don and Susan. I think I owe not just the continuation of my career to Don, but also a good deal of the happiness I’ve derived from living in this part of the world, over the past quarter century.
Don and I worked closely on a series of projects over the years. There were many, many PhD and MA thesis committees, alternately with me serving as the major advisor and Don as the second reader or with him as the major advisor and me as the second reader. There were the national conferences we organized at BGSU, as a part of the Policy History program. And there was also the project that yielded a book called Gerschenkron Reconsidered, about how national banking systems got configured in different ways, which I co-edited, and to which Don contributed an essay. This project involved a conference at the European University Institute in Fiesole, high above Florence, Italy. Don and Susan and I flew from Detroit to Florence together, changing flights at Schiphol Airport, outside of Amsterdam. We spent about an hour there going through customs, at 5.00 in the morning, with Don explaining to me how the banking system in Moscow, where textiles and light industry prevailed, came to be configured much like the English system, with commercial and investment banking carried out by separated classes of institutions, and how the system in St. Petersburg, where heavy industry prevailed, came to be configured much like the German system, with universal banks engaging in both commercial and investment banking. It was perhaps the most interesting conversation I’ve ever had while suffering from heavy jet lag. Later on I had to write letters to all of the contributors to this project, setting out the changes that we, the editors, wanted to see to bring the project together, and in my letter to Don, I referred directly to the conversation that we’d at a five in the morning in Schiphol.
I just want to tell just one more story here. Mercedes’s family comes from Toledo, España, and we use a little house that has been in Mercedes’ family outside of the city, with a view to the city, as our summer vacation house. One summer Don and Susan came to visit; I think they’d been staying in Paris on a sabbatical leave. It’s a nice place to visit, but there were some problems during their stay. For one thing, it was uncommonly hot for a couple of days, with temperatures well above 1000 F. We have a beautiful guest bedroom in our little vacation house, but in the early two-thousand-aughts Spain’s crazy nightlife was reaching its apex—or maybe vortex is the better word, and outdoor terraces with music were proliferating in the suburban zone around the city where we live, tormenting us until dawn, especially from Thursday evenings to Saturdays. Our guest room was particularly exposed to the music, so we decided to put Don and Susan in a spare bedroom in the big house, not as cool, but quieter. To make matters worse, the Vaquero-Serrano’s female dog was in heat, and the family’s male dog needed to be kept away from her, at least some of time, which further disturbed nocturnal tranquility. The days in Toledo should have been idyllic, but there were turning out to be somewhat less than that.
Don and Susan wanted to take a trip, to see more of Spain. Their first impulse was to see Barcelona; an understandable choice, of course. But in the summer Barcelona is not only hot, it’s also humid. We warned them that it might be a bit like visiting New York City in July. Why not go to Granada instead? It’s the most compelling place in Spain to study the country’s Islamic heritage, and how elements of that Islamic heritage were reworked after the Christian reconquest. Even though it’s in the south, it’s also in the mountains, and therefore a bit cooler, and there’s no humidity. They took our advice, and had a great time. And the final memory of Don I’d like to share with you is on the terrace of the big house outside of Toledo, just back from the trip to Granada, relaxing as the sun set on the city, with a cocktail of some sort, perhaps a palo cortado, the fullest-bodied of the dry sherries, and my personal favorite, which I try to keep on hand, and a smile of true satisfaction, after discovering the Alhambra of Granada. That made the trip to Spain worth it for him after all, despite the dog in heat, and the all-night electronic music, and the physical heat; and it was a great relief for me too.
You may leave a message for the family in Don Rowney’s tribute wall, at https://www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/24061822/don-k-rowney/wall . The Rowney family has established the “Don Karl Rowney Scholarship” in his honor. Donations to the scholarship may be mailed to BGSU Foundation, Inc., 1851 N. Research Drive, Bowling Green, OH 43403, or submitted online to https://falconfunded.bgsu.edu/g/give .