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.”