Dr. Mark Chamberlain, the fourth president in Rowan University’s history, died this weekend at the age of 82, leaving behind a university changed by his leadership and commemorated to his work.
Chamberlain, who at the age of 38 became both the school’s first president to be elected to his position and the youngest in Rowan history to hold the presidential position, was a natural leader who doubled Glassboro State College’s full-time enrollment in his 14-year tenure, according to a press release from the Office of President Dr. Ali Houshmand.
Robert Zazzali, vice president of Employee and Labor Relations and a 41-year employee of Rowan, said people would not have to look further than the aptly named Chamberlain Student Center to understand what drove the president.
“He always looked into the best interests of his students,” Zazzali said. “He was the quintessential university president — he defined what it is.”
According to the press release, Chamberlain was responsible for developing “incredible enrollment and academic program growth and facilities expansion” during his tenure at the then-Glassboro State College from 1969 to 1983.
“Upon his retirement from the presidency, our well-regarded teacher preparation school had become a comprehensive regional institution,” the statement read. “The Rowan University board of trustees recognized his contributions, particularly his work with students, by naming the Student Center in his honor in April 2006.”
Chamberlain was also highly praised for his even-keel leadership during an era of major cultural change in the nation.
Zazzali, who graduated from Glassboro State in Chamberlain’s inaugural year, 1969, said Chamberlain once held a campus-wide assembly on the front lawn of Bunce Hall to have an open, day-long discussion on the controversies of the ongoing Vietnam War.
“It was a turbulent time across the country and campus, and he was the right leader at the right time,” Zazzali said. “There was a lot of unrest and I think his gift at the time was in fostering discussion, communication, debate and just letting people express their views.”
Chamberlain, survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara, left his position in 1983 to pursue a career in teaching. He served as a chemistry professor at Rowan until his retirement in 2000, according to the press release.
He remained active in the Rowan community throughout his retirement and had planned to attend the Class of 2014’s commencement this May.
“We’ve had the right presidents at the right time, and we were lucky to have him when we did,” Zazzali said. “He was a wonderful, caring man.”
Dr. Chamberlain’s viewing was on April 2 at the Norton Funeral Home in Williamstown.
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