Catawba College Trustee Newton O. Fowler, Jr. of Concord was honored with North Carolina's highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, during the annual College Board of Trustees Meeting Feb. 20.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is presented by the N.C. governor to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. Contributions to their communities, extra efforts in their careers, and many years of service to their organizations are some of the guidelines by which recipients are selected for this award.
Past recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine include Charles Kuralt, Maya Angelou, Rev. Billy Graham, William C. Friday, poet Fred Chappell, and artist Bob Timberlake.
Catawba College President Dr. Robert Knott made the presentation to Fowler while his peers on the Board of Trustees and Fowler's wife, Nancy, looked on. Fowler joined Catawba's Board of Trustees in 1996 and is the former chairman of the Board's Development Committee. He also chaired Catawba's successful Campaign for Excellence, a multi-year capital fund-raising effort (1997-2002) which successfully raised more than $59.6 million dollars for building and infrastructure improvements on campus.
A native of Mt. Airy, Fowler was employed by Philip Morris for 38 years before retiring in 1993 as general manager of Philip Morris' Cabarrus Manufacturing Center. In January, 1980, he was appointed to head the start-up operations at Philip Morris' newest facility in Concord, N.C. The facility became the most cost-effective plant and the leader in all manufacturing parameters. Under Fowler's leadership, the Cabarrus Manufacturing Center was the most technologically advanced cigarette manufacturing facility in the world.
At a local press conference on Feb. 1, 1991, national, state and Philip Morris officials announced plans for a major facility expansion at Cabarrus — the largest in the state's history. The expansion cost was estimated at more than $400 million. In his remarks about Newton Fowler, John Campbell, the company's retired senior vice president, stated: "He was instrumental in making this expansion happen The Cabarrus facility was constructed (in 1983) with the expansion in mind, but that's just plans…it took Newt to get the job done."
Fowler holds both his bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in commerce from the University of Richmond. In 1980, he attended the executive program (TEP) at the Darden School at the University of Virginia.
In addition to his current service on Catawba's Board of Trustees, Fowler serves on the Cabarrus Bank and Trust Advisory Board, the Cabarrus County Fair Advisory Board, and the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Good Business, which he formerly chaired. He is a longtime, loyal member of the Catawba College Chiefs Club and the University of Richmond Spider Club. He is a member of the Concord Rotary Club and served on its board of directors, and is a member of the N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry (NCCBI). He holds honorary lifetime memberships in both the Concord-Cabarrus County Chamber of Commerce and the Kannapolis Chamber of Commerce.
His past community involvement is noteworthy. He has served on numerous boards, including the board of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, the UNC-Charlotte Board of Visitors, the N.C. Secretary of State's Foundation for Good Business, all of which he has chaired, the N.C. Independent College Fund, and the Foundation of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has held membership on the boards of directors for NCCBI, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of Central Carolinas, Inc., First Union National Bank, the Cabarrus Civic Foundation, and the N.C. Center for World Languages and Cultures. He has chaired the Site Selection Committee for the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College's South Branch and the Building Committee for First Baptist Church's New Sanctuary, and has served as executive vice president of the Cabarrus County United Way. He was a campaign cabinet member of the N.C. Performing Arts Center at Charlotte Foundation, representing Cabarrus and Rowan counties, and served on the Business Advisory Council for the N.C. Secretary of State, the Advisory Council for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for N.C., and as a delegate for the Rowan County-Kannapolis Regional Sports Authority. He was instrumental in establishing a cyber campus at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis.
A multi-talented athlete, Fowler played baseball and football at Mt. Airy High, making All-Conference in football. He also played in two State Class A Championship football games in 1946 and 1947. He was awarded football scholarships to the University of Richmond, Duke University, Davidson College, George Washington University, and Lees-McRae College. He played freshman football at Duke University, one year at Lees-McRae, and two years at the University of Richmond. While at Lees-McRae, he played in the Junior College Sugar Bowl in Monroe, La. He was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity at Richmond and he served on the institution's Business School Honor Council.
Fowler's honors and special recognitions are numerous. He received the Adrian L. Shuford, Jr. Award for Distinguished Service to Catawba College in 2006 and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanitarian service degree from Catawba in 1995. The Fowler Athletic Office Complex in Catawba's Mariam and Robert Hayes Field House is also named in his honor.
In 1993, he was presented the key to the cities of both Kannapolis and Concord with proclamations for his longtime service to both municipalities. The Newton O. Fowler, Jr. Lecture Hall at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics is named in his honor. In 1984, he was the recipient of the Philip Morris Gold Ring Merit Award and in 1972, the recipients of the Personalities of the South Award. He was listed as a member of Who's Who Worldwide Registry in 1993-1994.
Fowler and his wife, the former Nancy Fling of Arlington, Va., have consistently supported the College in various capital efforts. During the mid-1990s, he spearheaded an effort to raise funds to upgrade the John Coble Training Room in the Abernethy Physical Education Center on campus in honor of his longtime friend, Catawba alumnus and Mt. Airy native, the late John Coble '52 of Concord. Fowler and Coble played high school football together.
Fowler and members of his family also have established the Fowler Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Catawba. The scholarship is awarded annually to a student athlete who maintains a 2.75 grade point while majoring in teacher education. Other members of the Fowler family who participated in establishing the scholarship include Dr. Ed Fowler and wife Christina Daugherty Fowler of Greenwood, S.C., both 1985 alumni of Catawba College, and Mark and Margaret Fowler Porter of Concord. In addition to their two adult children, the Fowlers have four grandsons.