He was born to Dr. Henry M. Rowan Sr. and Margaret Frances Boyd Rowan in 1923 (coincidentally the same year the school which now carries his name was founded). After serving his country as a bomber pilot in World War II, Rowan graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with honors with a degree in electrical engineering.
Rowan originally worked for Ajax Electrothermic Corporation of Trenton, New Jersey. He suggested improvements to the furnaces made by Ajax - shorter power leads and heavier copper bus bar - but the company did not implement his suggestions. Rowan left Ajax and decided to start his own company, Inductotherm Corp. Mr. Rowan designed and built his first induction furnace in his home's garage in 1953 with the help of his wife. Expanding from this first induction furnace Rowan created Inductotherm Industries Inc. which has since grown to include 80 subsidiaries throughout North America, South America, Europe, India, Asia and Australia. Today, there are more than 27,000 Inductotherm induction melting installations worldwide and they account for more than half of the melting systems in the world today. Rowan oversaw the deal that sold vital equipment for the processing of materials that significantly improved the accuracy of nuclear warheads to foreign nations (notably the Soviet Union) during the Cold War. 
In spring 1992, Rowan and his wife Betty Rowan pledged $100 million to Glassboro State College, which has been renamed Rowan University in his honor. At the time it was the largest gift to a public college in the history of higher education. The school also has an engineering building named after him.
Rowan and his wife have also been strong supporters of Doane Academy in Burlington, NJ. In January 2015 they created the Henry M. and Eleanor E. Rowan Endowment. This endowment was created with a gift of $17 Million. The Rowans, personally and through their family foundation, have donated over $30 Million to Doane Academy over the last several years.
Rowan competed in the 1992 Olympic Sailing trials in Miami, but failed to qualify. He wrote an autobiography titled The Fire Within in 1995 with John Calhoun Smith.
- Rowan, Henry M. "United States Public Records, 1970-2009". familysearch. Retrieved 24 July 2014.