Henry S. Rowen, a Stanford economist and professor emeritus of public policy and management, died in Palo Alto on Nov. 12. He was 90.
Rowen, known affectionately as “Harry” to colleagues and friends, led a long, notable career in academia and public service. Having served in three U.S. administrations, he shaped the construction of American policy on a range of issues from entrepreneurship to intelligence.
“Harry was one of the great policy analysts, defense experts, public intellectuals and government servants of his generation,” said Michael H. Armacost, a colleague and Stanford distinguished fellow. “He is one of the reasons they are referred to as ‘the greatest generation.’”
Rowen was the Edward B. Rust Professor of Public Policy and Management, emeritus, at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a senior fellow, emeritus, at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and a director emeritus of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC).
Arriving at Stanford in 1972, Rowen studied economic development and high-tech industries in the United States and Asia, and contributed numerous publications on innovation, as well as international security and energy policy. He assumed emeritus status in 1995.
Public servant, scholar
Born in Boston, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a master’s degree from Oxford University, in 1949 and 1955, respectively.
Over the course of his career Rowen twice held positions at the RAND Corporation, first as an economist, and later as its president for five years from 1967 to 1972.
In Washington, he held several prominent positions in the Kennedy, Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. From 1981 to 1983, he was the chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC), and the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 1989 to 1991.
Thomas Fingar, an FSI distinguished fellow, described Rowen as “an institution” and a “very productive scholar as well as an effective and imaginative leader and manager.”
“My own career intersected with Harry’s several times, both at Stanford and Washington. Every time that it did, he was generous with his time and genuinely interested in whatever topic I brought to him,” said Fingar, who was one of Rowen’s successors as chairman of the NIC.
Rowen also served on the policy advisory board for the Secretary of Defense from 2001-04, and in 2004, was appointed to the yearlong U.S. commission charged with assessing the intelligence community’s readiness to respond to a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
He returned to the Stanford campus in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Rowen’s versatility supported and expanded the research aims of Shorenstein APARC and FSI, and the greater Stanford community.
“His name pops up in virtually every book written about U.S. national security policy during that period,” remarked Fingar, referring to Rowen’s influence in Washington in the early 1960s.
A collection of Rowen’s government papers was recently made available by the Hoover Institution Archives.
Rowen’s interdisciplinary experiences yielded a deep knowledge of the social and political factors in nations struggling with a sustainable peace, weighing nuclear proliferation issues, and considering new forms of governance.
In a 1996 issue of the National Interest, Rowen predicted that China would become a democracy by 2015. Although the forecast was seemingly incorrect, he suggested earlier this year that the transition was still a question of “when, not if.”
Rowen’s latest book Greater China’s Quest for Innovation was published in 2008. The co-edited book examines the talent, resources and research and development (R&D) environments in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and suggests institutions needed to create a successful innovation-based economy.
A comprehensive set of Rowen’s works can be found on his bio.
Rowen became the director of Shorenstein APARC in 1997. He served in that role until 2001, and as co-director from 2000 to 2001, with Stanford professor Andrew Walder.
“Harry was a core member of our center’s past and present,” said Takeo Hoshi, a Stanford economist and acting director of Shorenstein APARC. “He pioneered research on entrepreneurship and innovations throughout Asia. The importance of such research has only continued to grow over time.”
Rowen also led the Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE). Active for fifteen years, until 2013, its mission was to hold collaborative research and colloquia on the dynamics and sustainability of high-tech areas around the world.
William F. Miller, SPRIE faculty co-director and a Stanford professor emeritus of management and computer science, spoke of him as a man of great principle.
“Harry brought to bear his vast research experience, extensive government experience, and his international experiences on everything we did. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues,” Miller said.
SPRIE inspired other Stanford initiatives aiming to build bridges between Silicon Valley and Asia, such as China 2.0 and the still-present Centers and Initiatives for Research, Curriculum and Learning Experiences.
Rowen never retired. This year, he was advising a Fulbright visiting scholar and coordinating a conference on technology interaction between Singapore and Silicon Valley. He often attended seminars across campus and was known to pose insightful, straightforward questions.
Rowen is survived by his wife, Beverly, of Palo Alto, six children and nine grandchildren. Information about any memorial activities will be published when available.
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