Senior admission counselor Bob Rowe ’87 M.S. bleeds crimson and gray. Part of the Florida Tech community for 36 years, and only briefly questioning retirement, his positive impact and presence are undeniable. We spoke with Bob about his evolving role at Florida Tech, his volunteer interests and more.
You’ve worked at Florida Tech for 36 years—what’s the secret to that kind of longevity?
I think it’s just the work environment here. The students, faculty, staff and administration here are nice people. You don’t find that in most industries.
What is your role, and how has it evolved over the years?
When I first arrived on campus, I was an admissions counselor. Then, I got promoted to admissions coordinator. After that, I became assistant director of admissions and then an associate director of admissions. I was the senior associate director for 15 years. I was also the interim director for about two years. Now, as a senior admissions counselor, I’m pretty much more of a mentor and a presenter.
Are you originally from the Melbourne area?
I’m originally from upstate New York. I graduated college from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, and I said, “I’d rather be warm and unemployed than cold and unemployed,” because there was no hiring going on in the Albany area at the time. I came down here and found a job at the university two weeks later. I came to the university, and I applied for any position, but HR said there was nothing available at the time. My dad, who lived in the area, was a volunteer for the American Red Cross, and he took me to one of its luncheons. He introduced me around to a few folks, and I ran into one of the board members who happened to be the secretary at the language institute at Florida Tech. She took me over to HR, and she said, “This is Bob; he’s a friend of ours.” Now, whoever “ours” was, I don’t know. She called me later and said there was a position in admissions. She explained what it was, and I said, “Oh, that sounds like fun!” That’s how I got in.
You worked at Florida Tech and then went to work at the Melbourne Sand Company. What brought you back?
I liked what I was doing here at the university, but I tried to see about making a lot more money. So, in 1988, I went to work for the Melbourne Sand Company. There was money to be had, but it was very stressful. When I came back to the university in 1996, I realized how much I had missed being here. I really enjoyed traveling around the country telling people what a wonderful university Florida Tech is. Visiting high schools, attending college fairs and interviewing students were the things I really loved doing. Going to all sorts of fun places and telling the story of Florida Tech was pure joy.
What do you love about your job?
It’s a people-person job, and I love dealing with people. Love it, love it, love it. That’s probably my true passion, and this job has pretty much always been that. I think it helps me stay young mentally and physically. I never dread going to work. I always look forward to coming in each day.
What role does interacting with the campus community play in keeping your job fresh and exciting?
There are a lot of faculty I know who will mention something new when we’re talking, and I think, “That’s great! I’ll bring that up when I’m presenting.” I’m presenting to students in their late teens, so I have to stay pretty quick and active and know what’s going on in the world. I get a lot of up-to-date information from people here, on campus. I’ll pick up information from our student ambassadors and alumni, as well. It’s an information-rich environment, and there’s always something new you can learn.
Have there been any student success stories that resonate with you?
I have a great friend; his name is Jonathan Zung [’86]. He was on the Florida Tech board for six years. I met him and his family back in the early ’80s up in Rockland County, New York, at a college fair. He decided to come to school here. His parents were very happy about the size of the university, the attractive campus and variety of offerings, and initially he was not. But after a while, he settled in and enjoyed his time at Florida Tech. After completing his bachelor’s with us, he went on to receive his Ph.D. from another university and has spent the last 30 years working in the pharmaceutical industry at Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb. He was the vice president for global development operations at Bristol Myers Squibb. He currently serves on advisory boards for several smaller technology companies and is the chief development officer for a biotech firm. He and I have become tremendous friends and stay in touch on a regular basis. He’ll tell me about all the things going on in his world. With all the amazing achievements that Jonathan has made, he is still just a regular guy. He is my all-star recruit to Florida Tech!
How have you seen the university grow and change over the years?
When I first started here, in admissions, we had two people: myself and Jane Phillips, and we had a lot of areas to cover. We now have specific admissions counselors for specific areas who can focus and become experts on the areas they’re recruiting in. We have the ability to text students and talk to them instantly without having to wait for letters or emails to go back and forth. What’s a big plus now is the number of students from Florida that we draw to the university. When I first got here, we were lucky to draw 20%-25% from Florida in a good year. Now we’re in the 40% range. I think there’s just going to be more growth from both in and out of state because of the popularity of our majors and our great location.
Favorite Florida Tech memory?
When I received my master’s from Florida Tech in ’87, my wife made a pink cap and gown for our oldest daughter (who was 1 at the time). I carried her across the stage with me when I was receiving my diploma. Fast-forward 22 years, and she graduated from Florida Tech earning her own degree. Having a child graduate from our university is not an easy thing to do, especially in computer science. Seeing her walk across the stage to receive her diploma was my happiest moment here, at the university. Let’s just say that her mom and I were very proud parents that day!
What do you see in the future for Florida Tech?
We seem to adapt very quickly. As new technology comes along, we’ll do things differently. More and more things can be fine-tuned, and we have to adapt ourselves to what is going on both academically and socially. One of our main goals is to make students happy while they’re earning their degrees. We seem to be doing a great job of that. Focusing on keeping our students happy is one of the keys to having a successful university.
What do you see in the future for yourself?
I plan on continuing my work in admissions. I was all set to retire in June of 2021. I told my boss, Mike Perry [’88], in October 2020 that I still love what I do, I just needed to cut back on all the travel I was doing. We discussed it and reduced my daily work hours. Now, I give the daily admissions presentations. In my future, I just see more of the same—doing admissions presentations and convincing people they need to come to Florida Tech and nowhere else.
You are an active member of the community through your involvement with Daily Bread. Can you talk a bit about that?
Currently, I’m on the board of directors with Daily Bread, which helps the homeless in Melbourne by providing food, clothing, daily showers, P.O. boxes, etc. Daily Bread helps people overcome homelessness and live more productive and happy lives. It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart: helping people whom very few want to help. The Melbourne/Palm Bay area has been home to me for over 43 years now, and I love helping the homeless and making Melbourne a better place to live for everyone.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I bleed crimson and gray. All the wood flooring inside of my house is from the Hedgecock Gymnasium, which was our original gym. When the university went to tear the gym down and replace it with the Clemente Center, Florida Tech was selling off parts of the old gym. I went to buy some of the old floor, but unfortunately, the university had sold it all. Then, I found out [late distinguished professor emeritus] John Hadjilogiou had bought a bunch of the floor for his church, but they didn’t want it. He wanted to get rid of it, and he sold a large section to me. It took my wife, my two daughters and I six months to complete the flooring in the living room, dining room, kitchen and hall. Eighteen years later, when my daughters had moved out of the house, we decided to finish up the bedrooms. Now, my whole house is Florida Tech gym floor, so it’s my “home away from home,” or it’s my “home court advantage.”
This piece was featured in the fall 2023 edition of Florida Tech Magazine.