As the longtime chairman and CEO of the Chicago-based mostly electrical power business Exelon, John W. Rowe was a remarkably noticeable determine in Chicago’s normally-overlapping company and civic communities in the early 2000s, steering Exelon by way of a number of mergers and chairing the boards of various substantial-profile institutions, which includes the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Instruction Centre, the Chicago Background Museum, the Subject Museum and the Illinois Institute of Technology.
“He had so much compassion and sincerity, and the only issues that matched that were his honesty and his leadership capability,” stated Chicago industrialist Lester Crown, the chairman emeritus of Henry Crown & Co. “I don’t know really lots of men and women who had the respect and admiration that John experienced. We labored on so lots of issues.”
Rowe, 77, died of purely natural will cause on Sept. 24 in Naples, Florida, reported his son, Invoice. He was a resident of both Chicago and Naples.
Born John William Rowe in the southeast Wisconsin town of Dodgeville, Rowe grew up on a nearby farm. He earned a bachelor’s degree in historical past from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1967 and adopted that up by earning a regulation diploma in 1970 from the University of Wisconsin Regulation University.
Rowe’s very first job soon after regulation university was as an legal professional with the now-defunct Chicago regulation firm Isham, Lincoln & Beale, exactly where he was an affiliate from 1970 until 1977 and a spouse from 1977 right until 1980. He started symbolizing controlled firms, together with utilities and railroads.
“I bought assigned to perform on ComEd’s nuclear plants and did almost nothing but that for five decades,” Rowe explained to the Tribune in 2004.
When at his regulation organization, Rowe in 1979 and 1980 was counsel to the individual bankruptcy trustee for the Chicago-centered Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, also recognised as the Milwaukee Highway. Rowe later proudly famous to the Tribune that when the Milwaukee Road’s strains ended up bought off to other railroads, the consequence of its personal bankruptcy was that lenders have been repaid in full, most tracks remained in support, staff getting rid of their jobs been given generous severance deals and shareholders did very well.
Rowe instructed the Tribune in 2004 that the expertise was “a terrific enhance to my vocation and … an great supply of satisfaction.”
From his get the job done with the Milwaukee Road, Rowe was employed as an in-house lawyer for the now-defunct, govt-developed, Philadelphia-based mostly railroad Conrail, exactly where he labored from 1980 right up until 1984.
In 1984, Rowe was named the CEO of the Central Maine Electricity Co., a Maine utility, and in 1989, Rowe was recruited to be the CEO of a properly-regarded, Massachusetts-primarily based utility, New England Electrical Procedure, immediately after its CEO was killed by lightning. Then, in 1998, Rowe returned to Chicago when he took the task of CEO at Unicom Corp., the guardian enterprise of electrical utility Commonwealth Edison.
At that time, ComEd was saddled with high-priced and inefficient nuclear electrical power crops and a background of recurring ability outages from many years of deferred upkeep.
“I was pretty concerned of what might happen to the supply procedure in 1999,” Rowe informed the Tribune in 2011. “We experienced three or four outages in the Loop. It’s not supposed to transpire.”
Amid Rowe’s initial steps were spending hundreds of thousands and thousands of bucks to improve its infrastructure, bringing in new professionals and turning ComEd’s nuclear operations all over. He also made a decision to market ComEd’s fossil gas fleet, drastically decreasing the company’s dependence on coal.
Rowe also designed a track record for emphasizing range in ComEd’s workforce, even naming a vice president for diversity extended ahead of this kind of a part was in vogue in company ranks.
“We base our corporation on two of the excellent melting pot areas of the U.S.,” he explained to the Tribune in 2004. “Nobody can have a planet-course utility with that footprint until they pay back consideration to range each and every working day.”
Rowe also steered the business — renamed Exelon in 2000 — as a result of many mergers. He merged the company with PECO Strength in 2000, and then was unsuccessful in his endeavor to merge Exelon with a large New Jersey utility.
Later on, on the other hand, Rowe engineered yet another significant merger in 2008, the $8 billion acquisition of Baltimore-based mostly Constellation Electrical power Team. Rowe retired as CEO in 2012, the exact 12 months that the Constellation offer was completed.
Persuasive and affable, Rowe was an enthusiastic — if not outright inexhaustible — fundraiser for worthwhile will cause, as well as a major personal contributor. He and his family members cofounded two charter universities in Chicago, which include a math and science academy, and Rowe was a longtime board member and previous board chair at the Chicago Background Museum.
“Amazing as the long listing of John Rowe’s accomplishments may perhaps be, no list can begin to explain what John meant to so lots of people today on a private amount,” claimed former Chicago Background Museum President Gary Johnson. “When I was president of the Chicago Background Museum, I visited the school rooms in the educational institutions named for John and (his spouse). And John was my go-to close friend not only for steering foremost the museum, but for so significantly else, these kinds of as individual advice of all types and, of course, which background guide to read subsequent. His wit and humor by no means failed.”
A onetime chairman of the Discipline Museum’s board, Rowe was an newbie historian with a specific fondness for historical Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine societies and crammed his workplace at Exelon with exceptional historic artifacts, which includes a sarcophagus at one particular level. The historic coffin sparked a minor controversy in 2006 when the secretary-standard of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities publicly chastised Rowe for proudly owning such an object and threatened to take out Exelon from the checklist of sponsors of a blockbuster touring show involving King Tutankhamen.
Rowe defused the make any difference by lending the far more than 2,000-yr-old coffin to the Industry Museum, which displayed it in its long lasting displays on every day daily life in Egypt in the time of the pharaohs.
Another establishment of excellent significance to Rowe was the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Schooling Heart, the place he served as board chair.
“One of the matters that genuinely stands out is that he was not Jewish, and he accepted the chairmanship of the Illinois Holocaust Museum for the reason that it was anything that wanted to be completed,” Crown said. “That was just a snapshot of the man or woman and that’s how he felt about just everything. He had no bias and he wished to do what was proper and ideal for the men and women all over him. And he never ever claimed no if you requested him.”
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Josh Hale, the president and CEO of the Massive Shoulders Fund, a nonprofit that presents scholarships to in-need to have youths attending Catholic colleges, recalled Rowe’s “strong and decisive commitment to philanthropy” and group outreach.
“For him, (philanthropy and community outreach were) not a facet job. It was woven into his everyday lifestyle and a affliction of his really existence,” Hale mentioned. “And many others adopted his guide, if not on your own for his infectious and great enthusiasm for aiding all citizens, then for his unstoppable intellectual curiosity, wit and ability of persuasion, which charmed all who had the pleasure to satisfy him.”
In latest years, Rowe was outspoken in his want for federal immigration reform, and he vociferously opposed ending the Deferred Motion for Childhood Arrivals software. Rowe was the co-chair of the Illinois Company Immigration Coalition.
“From a small business issue of perspective, this has a genuine result on superior-end work in the tech spots, it has a genuine influence on the complete clinical establishment and, of course, it has a serious influence on the small-end entry-level work opportunities,” Rowe informed the Tribune in 2017.
In addition to his son, Rowe is survived by his wife, Jeanne and two brothers, Jim and Jerry.
A visitation will choose area from 9 to 10 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6, at St. Williams Catholic Church in Naples.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.
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