John Robert Rowley came to Amherst from Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, and by his own account was “given a chance” by Dean C. Scott Porter, who forgave him the tuition fees he could not afford. Bob then set about covering his living costs by dishwashing, waiting on tables, and many another jobs; for a time he owned and operated a second-hand textbook store in Eddie Switzer’s basement. Though he and I were fraternity brothers (and fellow waiters) at Chi Psi, I had no sense of the extent to which he was earning his way, and I think that in the College of our day there was little thought about who had money and who did not. What people saw in Bob was jaunty good nature, alertness, energy, and a readiness to serve—qualities which made him, among other things, a member of the Political Union, president of the Student Council, and Class president both in his senior year and thereafter. He was one of the devisers of a senior class revel which turned College Hall into “Club ’42,” and which required the revelers and their guests—including President King—to enter the party from the balcony by way of a slide. I am not sure where Bob got his alternative nickname of “Rabbit”; it could, I suppose, be a corruption of “Robert,” but it seemed in any case to reflect his speed and prowess as a varsity soccer player. Reporting on an October, 1941, victory over Tufts, The Student told how “Bob Rowley broke the deadlock in the final frame by heading the ball into the goal for a score.”
During WWII, Bob served as navigator of two navy ships, a fleet oiler and a troop transport, seeing considerable action in both oceans. When the war was over, he found his way into the field of public relations and was employed by various firms in various places until settling in Houston with his wife, Brucie, as PR manager of Goodyear’s southwest office. Some time after Brucie’s death, he remarried, and his second wife, Pleasie, survives him.
One of Bob’s major pleasures in retirement was the making of large, beautiful photographs of golf courses and landscapes and of the Amherst to which he was devoted all his life. He was a great Class agent and a great arranger and attender of Reunions. He died in his sleep on April 19, 2007, shortly before his Class’ 65th Reunion. We sorely missed his warmth, his vitality, and his good cheer
—Richard Wilbur ’42