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Dr. Neilon J. Rowan | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Dr. Neilon J. Rowan, professor emeritus in the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M University, passed away Jan. 8.

He leaves behind a legacy that impacted the transportation industry and the careers of hundreds of transportation professionals throughout his 30-year career as an educator and researcher.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be sent to Hospice Brazos Valley.

Visitation and services for Rowan will be held on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 at First Baptist Church of Bryan.

A lifelong Texan, Rowan earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech University in 1957. He went on to Texas A&M for his master’s and doctoral degrees and joined the faculty in 1959. From 1979-89, he served as assistant department head for undergraduate programs in the civil engineering department and guided many young professionals through the maze of the engineering curriculum.

Rowan’s warm and outgoing personality, down-home demeanor and genuine concern for students and young professionals aided their entry into the profession and enhanced their professional development. He encouraged students to participate in the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and other professional organizations. He led by example, and his peers elected him to serve in 1981 as the ITE’s international president.

Rowan was also a retired Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) research engineer. C.V. Wootan, retired TTI director, hailed Rowan as "the father of high-level illumination work.” His work from the late 1960s is now a national standard. He also was instrumental in the development of the breakaway sign technology used internationally today.

During his career, Rowan served as an expert witness in highway design and operations, rail-highway grade crossings, roadway lighting and highway safety. His research on these topics and other areas of highway safety is well known across the country, having published more than 25 definitive papers and reports. He was active developing the continuing education program in traffic and highway engineering for Texas and the Federal Highway Administration.

In 1993, Rowan was awarded the highest honor by the International Institute of Transportation Engineers, selecting him as an Honorary Member. He was the first Texan, and at the time, only the 46th person to receive the honor in the organization’s long history.

He 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 and was inducted into the Texas Tech Engineering Hall of Fame.

Read a tribute to Dr. Rowan from former students and TTI.