Louise Huntington Rowe

Honored by:Frank A. Anderson
Brick location:PAVER:28  map

1891 - 1959

Wife, Mother, Housemother

Louise Huntington Rowe was born in Rock Rapids, Iowa, on August 14, 1891. She was named Agnes Louise and was the only child of Elisha and Agnes Getty Huntington. Never taking to the name Agnes, she was always known as Louise.

Completing high school in Rock Rapids, she went on to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1914. While at Knox, she was initiated into Pi Beta Phi sorority and later joined Chapter Al PEO in Rock Rapids.

She married Thomas Tipton Rowe on January 5, 1916, in Rock Rapids and had three children. These were Stanford Huntington Rowe, Clarke Huntington Rowe, and Mary Huntington Rowe. All three graduated from Iowa State University.

The Stage is Set

In 1941, the university (formerly College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts) passed a rule that fraternities must have a housemother who would live in the house and provide guidance from the mature, gentle gender perspective.

Enter Phi Gamma Delta

The Alpha Iota Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta almost continuously had a housemother in residence since 1923, so this was not a cultural shock. Thus, after the ruling, a Phi Gam alumnus inquired as to her interest since two of her children were students at the time. An interview with a fraternity committee followed, and she was persuaded to stay during Veisha and the rest of spring 1941. Thus began an association that endured until she was forced by illness to resign during school year 1959. After taking up residence in 1941, she became part of the extended community by affiliating with First Congregational Church, by transferring to Chapter HN, PEO and by taking an active role in the Pi Beta Phi sorority where, at times, she was president of the alumnae club.

Given her background, she understood the college/Greek relationship and, over the years, was able to effectively relate between the students and higher authority (deans of men and women). At the house she was always available to counsel, to console, to instruct, and to sew insignia on military uniforms. An avid bridge player, many's the game that started after girls' curfew. Girls had to be checked into residence by 10 p. m. weekdays in those years. She presided over the dining room and taught that there was more to meals than merely gorging food. As an amateur composer, she contributed to the authorship of the song "Pi Phi Fiji." Proving there is life beyond college, she maintained extensive contact with alumni - at times corresponding with 30 - 40 members. The extra motivation to return for the annual alumni event was to visit Mother Rowe.

In the fall of 1951, the Des Moines Tribune printed a full page article headlined "The Fraternity Housemother - Twelfth Player On the Team." This was in reference to a bit of "football" horseplay indulged in annually between Phi Gamma Delta and the Delta Delta Delta sorority. The men sneaked Mother Rowe into the game and her contribution was the game-winning touchdown. The article went on to suggest that the role of the fraternity housemother was to be that "Twelfth Player" on the team and some 50 senior ladies were filling this role at Iowa State. Mother Rowe was perhaps the model of what one would want in this position.

Other lesser but important activities highlighted in the article include her cigar display and Fiji. As members courted the ladies and convinced them to wear their fraternity pin, they celebrated by passing out cigars. She then carefully identified each couple and connected up an extensive chain of the cigars. Even though very space limited in her room, these were a featured display. Fiji, a pedigreed cocker spaniel, was a gift from a member's family. As in most parent-child relationships, by default, she became the constant in Fiji's life. Most of what Fiji knew he learned from Mother Rowe.

During periods of house shut-down (summers, between quarters, etc.), she continued to maintain a busy schedule by traveling, visiting friends around the country, and spending time with her children who were located in Des Moines, Iowa, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, and Ripon, Wisconsin.

It was particularly fitting that Mother Rowe should be remembered in this memorial. As she lived through the suffrage movement and she herself could not vote until age 29, voting was very important to her. As one alumnus, who turned 21 in 1948, explained after he returned from a Des Moines trip (hitch-hiked) to vote: "it was easier to make the trip than to explain to Mother Rowe why I did not vote."

After resigning, her health rapidly deteriorated and while on a train en route to California, she passed away during the night ride in Nebraska on April 14, 1959. Final services were in Ames, Iowa and she was interred in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

She will be long remembered with respect, fondness, and love.

Submitted on 2/24/95

Paver Inscription:

"Louise H. Rowe
House Mother, Phi Gamma Delta