Neil Rowan is a mentor, role model, and counsel who has impacted the careers of hundreds of transportation professionals throughout a 30-year career as an educator and researcher. His warm and outgoing personality, down-home demeanor, and genuine concern for students and young professionals has aided their entry into the profession and enhanced their professional development and has encouraged their active participation in ITE and other professional organizations. He lead by example, and his peers elected him to serve in 1981 as the ITE’s international president.
A professor of civil engineering at Texas A&M University and a research engineer for the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), Rowan is held in very high regard by both peers and students. TTI Director C.V. Wootan hails Rowan as "the father of high-level illumination work. He is the chief proponent of roadway illumination. His work done in the late Sixties is now a national standard." He also was instrumental in the development of the breakaway sign technology used internationally today, and he has served in senior level TTI management positions.
Born, raised, and educated in Texas, Rowan earned his B.S. in civil engineering from Texas Tech University in 1957. He went on to Texas A&M for his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees and has been a member of the faculty there since 1959. From1979 to 1989 he served as assistant department head for undergraduate programs in the civil engineering department. In this capacity he guided many young professionals through the maze of the engineering curriculum. He currently serves on the university's Academic Appeals Panel and the committee for the College of Engineering Scholarship & Awards. His involvement in education is further enhanced by his role in launching ITE’s educational emphasis, an area of ITE that continues today.
He has garnered many faculty citations, including the 1989–90 Zachry Teaching Excellence Award, for which he was nominated by his students. He was also named Outstanding Professor in 1985. He was honored recently by his alma mater when he was named to the Texas Tech Engineering Hall of Fame. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Chi Epsilon, the honorary engineering societies, and he is the faculty advisor for the student chapter of Chi Epsilon at Texas A&M.
Since 1981, Neil has served as an expert witness in the areas of highway design and operations, rail-highway grade crossings and roadway lighting. His research on these topics and other areas of highway safety is well-known across the country, having published more than 25 definitive papers. In addition, Neil was active in the development of the continuing education program in Traffic and Highway engineering for Texas and the Federal Highway Administration.
In 1978, he was named Transportation Engineer of the Year by the Texas Section, and he received the Highway Research Board Award in 1973 for a paper of outstanding merit. In 1966 he received a Certificate of Commendation from the National Safety Council for his contributions toward the development of breakaway sign supports.
Rowan's chronology of contributions to ITE begins long before his stint as International President, and continues to this day. Beginning with his participation at the state level, he had achieved presidency of the Texas Section by 1973. In 1975, he was elected to the International Board representing District 5. Neil helped to initiate and guide the development of the Transportation Technician Curriculum of ITE through his service as a member of the Steering and Advisory Committee. During his term as international president, Neil initiated the Institute Voluntary Contributions Program that since 1981 has provided nearly $250,000 to help fund programs not able to be accomplished within ITE’s operating budget. Neil also has been a member of the Philanthropic Advisory Committee since its formation. Today, he serves on the Task Force on Transportation Engineering Education and the Philanthropic Advisory and Steering Committee.