When we decided to make this issue a front-to-back compilation of UConn people doing good in the world, it was because we thought everyone could use a hit of happiness right now. We found out near press time in January that our friend and colleague Dee Rowe had died, and it became, also, a fitting tribute to this UConn icon who was as good as good gets, and who left a lasting impression on every human being he met.
Six years ago, almost to the day, as I looked out my new office window at Swan Lake and the Chem Building stacks, my computer pinged with the first external email to my uconn.edu account. It was from my dad. After I got settled in my new job, he asked, could I please try to find an old friend of his he’d lost touch with, a longtime UConn coach and athletic administrator named Dee Rowe. My initial search failed when I looked for Rowe in the ranks of the retired — the Athletics communicator who ultimately shared his contact info said, “He still has an office in Gampel, comes in most days.” Rowe was 86 at the time.
Dad introduced me to Dee at halftime of a local high school basketball game where the son of a friend of his was playing. It was his fourth basketball game or scrimmage of the day and he was headed to another. Indeed, Rowe had a singular passion for the game and is credited with helping make UConn men’s and women’s basketball, and athletics in general, what it is today through his post-coaching career as a fundraiser. Rowe was a friend and trusted advisor to countless UConn coaches, athletes and, yes, presidents, deans, faculty, and staff.
“He took the time to really get to know people and wanted to help them,” says my colleague Mike Enright who worked with Rowe for years. “When you went to an awards dinner or a game with Coach Rowe, one thing was certain, you would be the last to leave. He had to see everyone. To thank them and make sure they were doing OK. He loved sitting down for a cup of coffee and a muffin to talk about life, family. He always said that to know the right thing to do is easy, it is just hard to do it sometimes. Dee helped people do the right things in life.”
To the editor,
I met coach Rowe in the spring of 1969, I was part of his first recruiting class. I played for him during my sophomore and junior years before leaving the team over a dispute he and I had in December of 1971. I reconnected with him on a visit to campus 20+ years after I had graduated and we had a great conversation about the time we spent together at UConn all those years earlier. We maintained on and off communication over the next 20 years. Whenever I called he would typically begin our conversation by asking – how is your family, what do you need and/or how can I help? Over the past several years I managed to find found my way back to him and several teammates from that period on a more consistent basis. It was nice to reconnect and feel a bit the like the prodigal son. A group of us had lunch with coach in Storrs prior to the Covid breakout and there were a number of Zoom calls we gathered for as the epidemic restricted visits. He was a good and decent man who loved his family, his players and the game of basketball. His primary objective in life was reaching out to help people. He leaves behind that wonderful legacy.
R.I.P. Coach Rowe and thank you.
It was the summer of 1954 in Worcester, MA after a summer league game. A young coach came up to me,
put his hand my shoulder and said, “stay with it, keep practicing”. I asked “why” he replied “you are different”.
and walked away. Upon graduating from high school Dee was the first to offer me a scholarship [Worcester Academy}
I chose instead to go straight to UConn. I have always regretted not playing that extra year before heading to Storrs.
He remained a life long friend as he was to so many others.