Who was Dr. Rowe?

Dr. Leo Stanton Rowe - "Citizen of the Americas"

DrLeoRowe.jpgDr. Leo Stanton Rowe was born in McGregor, Iowa, on September 17, 1871. He served with exemplary dedication and vision as Director General of the Pan American Union (the precursor to the Organization of American States), from 1920 up until the day of his death on December 5, 1946. His life revolved around two main concerns: advancing Pan-Americanism and promoting education in the pursue of democratic values in the Americas.

From early in his professional career, Dr. Rowe promoted education and “intellectual cooperation” as the most effective way to recognize the importance of social, economic, and cultural rights in democratic societies. In 1917, in his address to the National Conference on Foreign Relations of the United States, he stated, “if the democracies of America are to unite for common purposes, they must understand one another and this understanding must involve far more than the absence of friction between the governments, it must include a real understanding by the people of common aims and purposes.”

During the same speech, Dr. Rowe proposed a new form of international cooperation that included a “well organized plan for furthering the exchange of university students” noting that education for the region was essential for its citizens to assert their rights and make well-informed decisions in all aspects of life and that U.S. universities were prepared to cooperate in such a plan. He added that “we have hardly begun to realize to what an extent university students may become the agents of international cooperation.”

Dr. Rowe’s progressive belief in the politics of scholarly brotherhood had a long-lasting influence in Inter-American relations. During his tenure as Director General of the Pan American Union, Dr. Rowe continued to promote ideas and policies central to what he called “constructive Pan Americanism,” which prioritized intellectual and cultural cooperation as the most appropriate path to mutual understanding and integration among nations. He was a visionary and saw young professionals in the region as agents for positive change and the ones who understood the challenges in their communities and could give those communities a voice.  He saw students from the region as the ones who could advocate and propose possible solutions for their populations. He saw education as a vehicle to promote and pursue democracy and foster peace, security, and cooperation to advance common interests.

Dr. Rowe believed that developing capacities and building collaboration and networks through the region would in turn create opportunities for the exchange of experiences for the well-being of the people of the Americas. During the Good Neighbor era numerous institutions contributed to make the exchange of professors and students between U.S. and Latin American universities. Intellectual cooperation became an integral part of U.S. cultural diplomacy. In an interview with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt in 1942, Dr. Rowe commented on the future of Pan Americanism indicating that by abiding by basic principles of peace, justice, fair dealing, and cooperation, the American republics "will greatly contribute to the welfare of humanity and consequently will render the greatest service to the survival of democracy."

Dr. Rowe devoted the greater part of his life to fostering understanding and integration among the American nations demonstrating again a special interest in the education of Latin American youth, as the vehicle to pursue democratic values. He made opportunities available for many of them to study in the United States during his lifetime, and he then bequeathed a legacy in his will to continue to support the region’s youth in their pursue of higher education at universities in the United States

Three characteristics define Dr. Leo S. Rowe as Director General of the Pan American Union:

  • Devotee of the ideal of Pan-Americanism to promote peace, friendship, democratic values, and better understanding among the nations of the Pan American Union.
  • Champion of intellectual cooperation to effect positive change in the region.
  • Promoter of the economic welfare of Latin American nations

Learn more about Dr. Rowe by watching a short video here.

  "And now, Mr. Secretary and members of the Governing Board, permit me to assure you that my heart and soul are in this work. All the strength and energy of which I am capable are at your service. It has been and is the one ambition of my life to contribute, even in some small measure, toward  the closer union between the republics of America; and if, under your guidance, I may be able to make such a contribution to that great cause, I shall consider that I have not lived in vain." 

Final Words of Dr. Leo S. Rowe
in the speech of his inauguration to the position as
Director General of the Pan-American Union,
in the seat of PAU, Washington, D.C. 1920