Meet your Neighbor: ‘Ras’ Rowe
Retiree not very retiring when he’s promoting Rotary Club’s values

By Jon Valentine

Retirement, we know, doesn’t have to be spent in a rocking chair. Although Ernest Rowe, 71, has been retired for 10 years, he remains more active than many with full-time jobs.

Since giving up a long career in education in 1994, Rowe has focused his attention on Rotary International, serving in a number of different roles for Tempe and Chandler Rotary clubs.

More recently, Rowe has been offering his help in acquiring a charter for the provisional Rotary Club of the Kyrene Corridor.

Although he agrees he’s been busier since retiring, Rowe has never a lot of spare time on his hands. A graduate of Phoenix Union High School, Rowe attended college at Arizona State University in 1951, where in those days he was one of only 4,500 students.

Immediately after his graduation in 1955, Rowe was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army, where he served for two years at Ft. Knox, Ky., and in Mannheim, Germany.

Upon his return from the Army, Rowe went back to school to become certified to teach. He started his first job in 1960 in the Madison School District in Phoenix, and two years later was working as an instructor of gifted children in Garden Grove, Calif.

After that, he worked briefly in Arizona with the Department of Public Education as state consultant in special education. In 1967, Rowe landed his longest job, working as professor of educational philosophy at Idaho State University in Pocatello.

It was in 1972 in Pocatello that Rowe hooked up with Rotary International. He worked with the large Rotary Club of Pocatello for 23 years, serving as president during the 1981-82 term.

All of his work in connection with Rotary was in addition to a large amount of other volunteer positions Rowe maintained in Idaho, including serving on the board of directors for a local hospital, working as the governor-appointed commissioner to the Education Commission of the states, serving on the Idaho State Board of Education, sitting with the Prelitigation Panel for Medical Malpractice Hearings and volunteering for other service-oriented positions.

After taking early retirement in 1994 from his post at Idaho State, Rowe, who prefers to be called Ras, moved back to Arizona and quickly found involvement with the Rotary Club of Tempe, where, in 1997, he was elected president. He served in that role until 2000, when he switched to the Chandler Rotary Club, with which he volunteers now.

Since 1999 Rowe has been a chairman of the Rotary district’s Ambassadorial Scholars Committee, a Rotary initiative started in 1947 that selects academically excellent college students to travel for a scholastic year to another country where Rotary International exists, with preference given to students who are proficient in the language of the country they wish to study in.

In his tenure as a chairman on the committee, Rowe has seen a number of students from Arizona travel to different countries across the globe. In addition, Rowe has sponsored several students from foreign countries studying for an academic year in Arizona, including those from Bulgaria, Japan, Indonesia and other countries.

Through his participation in Rotary International over the years, Rowe says he has been fortunate to travel to several of the Rotary International conventions in cities like Sao Paolo, Brazil, Barcelona, Spain, and in 2003, Brisbane, Australia.

Traveling has always been one of Rowe’s hobbies—in all, he has been to 28 different countries and five of the seven continents.

Rowe and his wife of nearly 10 years, Carla, spend a month every summer in northern Italy, visiting Carla’s relatives (with the exception of last year, when he attended the Rotary convention in Brisbane).

In his spare time, Rowe stays busy with hobbies, including shortwave radio, classical and semi-classical music, gardening and bird watching. Also, Rowe is “at my high-school weight” and works out 2-3 times a week.

Rowe insists he will continue to volunteer for leadership positions within the community, and has no intention of discontinuing his participation with Rotary or any of his other service positions anytime soon. His outstanding record of service will only continue to grow.

To Rowe the rationale for his efforts is a simple one:

“I think as citizens we owe our community and country our public service,” he says.