CPP mourns loss of retired professor and photo illustrator Wayne Rowe

By Samantha Lopez, Feb. 9, 2021

Last month, Cal Poly Pomona’s Wayne Rowe, a retired professor in communication, passed away suddenly. Rowe’s 27 years in teaching and serving as a mentor to his students paved the way for many to follow their dreams.

One of his former students, Art Suwansang, kept in close contact with him after leaving CPP to pursue his dreams in photography. He remembered Rowe as an inspiration to him early on and was in awe of his professional background as a successful photographer while still teaching at CPP.

“He was the first of so many things for me. My college experience, my first college professor, and my first college class,” Suwansang said. “To me, he is one of the kindest, calm and gentle persons that I’ve ever met and is someone I constantly look back upon and look up to for inspiration to be better every single day in many aspects.”

(Courtesy of Richard Kallan)

Rowe taught courses involving his passion in film photography, digital photography and photographic lighting where he was labeled as the “photo god” by his students.

Wayne Rowe was born November 1, 1937 in Los Angeles, where he graduated from High School in 1955 as class president and class valedictorian. Rowe went on to achieve his Bachelor of Arts at UCLA in 1959. During the years of 1961-1963, he enlisted in the US Army. Upon his return, he went back to his alma mater, UCLA, and continued his education to receive a Master of Arts in Communications in 1967. He completed his PhD in Speech from USC in 1975. Rowe’s extensive knowledge in arts fueled his passion to communicate his perception of the world through photography. This began with film photography which led him to digital.

It was because of this skillset and passion that he became a successful photo illustrator, with work that was published in well-known publications such as Architectural Digest. Rowe also authored the book, “Zen and the Magic of Photography,” a direct tribute to a book he quoted often, according to Communication Department Professor Richard Kallan, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”

Kallan met Rowe while serving as the chair of the Communication Department in 1995. He remembers Rowe’s interest in Zen in terms of meditation and finding the peaceful and calm energy doing everyday activities. According to Kallan, Rowe’s interest in Zen piqued when he saw the “relationship between photography and Zen,” and that was one of the things Kallan believed separated Rowe from other photographers.

“He brought depth of understanding of what he was doing; it wasn’t simply a physical act, he was trying to capture that human spirit,” Kallan said. “He saw things that often times other photographers didn’t. That was one of his great advantages: he had a skillset and also had a knowledge base that when combined was truly powerful.”

However, what made him one-of-a-kind, according to Kallan, was his generosity and kindness toward everyone in his life. Kallan recalled a time where Rowe would volunteer to give new faculty of the department tours of the campus. One of these faculty members was Lorena Turner, a communication lecturer.

According to Turner, Rowe was always welcoming and encouraging from the time she was interviewed to long after she was hired. He never judged her for any mistake she made and always uplifted her when she felt insecure about her progress as a professor. To her, Rowe was a mentor to many people including herself.

“He knew how to be a solid foundation for all the people around him,” Turner said. “He wanted to give students opportunities that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. I think when someone has that kind of awareness or care, it’s a way of communicating a certain amount of affection.”

Rowe was loved by many and all the memories of him, according to Kallan, defined who he was as a professor, friend, and family member: an honest, generous and caring person.

The family of Rowe honors his generous legacy by encouraging donations to the Wayne Rowe Memorial Scholarship.

Checks can be made to the Cal Poly Pomona Philanthropic Foundation. In the memo line, note it is for the Wayne Rowe Memorial Scholarship and mail it to: Cal Poly Pomona Development, PO Box 3121, Pomona, CA, 91769. To give virtually, go to www.cpp.edu/give and under Designation/Other, note that it is for the Wayne Rowe Memorial Scholarship.

“There is this quote that always makes me think of Wayne,” Kallan said. “‘Character is what you do when no one is watching.’ He was the same when they were watching and when they weren’t watching.

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