John Rowe’s interests defied easy categorization, but he always promoted the spread of knowledge and the University of Wisconsin. The former CEO of the energy firm Exelon Corporation died on September 24, 2022, leaving a legacy of support for the sciences and humanities at UW–Madison and across the Midwest.
Rowe ’67, JD’70 grew up near Dodgeville, Wisconsin, and at the UW, he studied history and law. But his career took him to the energy industry. In 2000, he helped merge Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison with PECO Energy to form Exelon, and he served as the new company’s CEO and chair of the board until his retirement in 2012. Always keeping an eye on the future, he was a vocal proponent of cap-and-trade policies to reduce carbon emissions.
But Rowe also loved learning and he was a passionate supporter of educational institutions. He and his wife, Jeanne, endowed three chairs in UW–Madison’s Department of History — in Byzantine history; Greek history; and American politics, institutions, and political economy — along with a new professorship in Roman history. Rowe was also a longtime supporter of the Law School. He served a term as president of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and was a trustee for the Morgridge Institute for Research, where he and Jeanne founded the Rowe Center for Research in Virology. In Chicago, the Rowes cofounded the Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy and the Rowe Elementary / Middle School, and they supported many cultural institutions, including the Field Museum, the Chicago History Museum, and the Illinois Holocaust Museum. The UW awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2008.
“Studying history meant a whole lot to me,” said Rowe in an interview with the UW’s Letters and Sciencemagazine. “I enjoyed it, and I still read history every day. And I’ve found it helpful in my professional life. You realize some of the things you face aren’t new and that the world changing is normal. It’s wonderfully relevant to a CEO, particularly one in a highly politicized business.”
The University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association will miss John Rowe for his leadership, wisdom, and generosity.