Margaret Rowland, former executive assistant to President John Hennessy, has died

Margaret Rowland was a steady mainstay in Building 10, serving as executive assistant to the president of Stanford from 2000 to 2016. She was widely recognized for her extraordinary administrative skills and her commitment to Stanford and to those with whom she worked.

Margaret Rowland, longtime executive assistant to former President John Hennessy, has died at age 60 after a nearly three-year battle with metastatic breast cancer.

Margaret Rowland was widely recognized for her extraordinary administrative skills and her commitment to Stanford and to those with whom she worked.

Rowland, who retired from Stanford in 2019, served in a variety of administrative positions at Stanford for about 40 years, most of them alongside Hennessy as he rose from a faculty member in engineering, to department chair of computer science in 1994, dean of the School of Engineering in 1996, university provost in 1999 and then president in 2000. She died peacefully at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose on Nov. 1.

"Margaret was intensely dedicated to Stanford," Hennessy said. "She always wanted the university to be the very best it could be. She was relentless in making sure that everything that the President’s Office was doing - from communicating with an alumnus, to giving a speech, to meeting with students - was done as perfectly as possible."

Hennessy added, "Getting her to take vacation days was difficult, and she finally agreed only if I would be gone at the same time! She worked with me for more than 30 years, and I will always remember her dedication to me and to the university."

The admiration was mutual. In a Stanford Report article in 2000, Rowland described working for Hennessy as hard but endlessly interesting: "There’s always something new. The ways he solves problems are sometimes so different that you end up learning so much about the university when you’re trying to implement his decisions."

Rowland was especially known as a steady hand in Building 10 when Hennessy served as president from 2000 to 2016. She was widely recognized throughout the university for her extraordinary administrative skills and her commitment to Stanford and to those with whom she worked. After leaving the president’s office, Rowland worked in University Communications before her retirement.

"Margaret’s commitment to Stanford and her dedication to excellence was admirable," said Stephanie Kalfayan, associate provost for academic affairs. "Many of us have lost a good friend and colleague."

Rowland was born at Stanford Hospital on April 20, 1960. Her father, James, and mother, Maggie, had moved from Montana so James could pursue a degree in physics at the university. She was one of six children who grew up in Cupertino. After graduating from Monte Vista High School, Rowland started working at Stanford as a temporary administrative assistant and quickly secured a position supporting faculty members in the School of Engineering, including Hennessy.

"She gave a lot to the institution behind the scenes for 40 years," said her niece Miranda Tuttle, outreach and student resources manager in the Stanford Title IX Office.

Outside of Stanford, Tuttle said Rowland was close to her family and traveled with them frequently, including six visits to Ireland.

No services are planned. The family, however, welcomes contributions made in Rowland’s name to any breast cancer research or support organization.


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