Rowan is an author, journalist, lawyer, consultant, teacher and lifelong student.
Spencer Ford Rowan, Jr., was born in Houston, grew up in New Orleans, worked there and in Washington, and now is headquartered in Annapolis. Ford has had three distinct careers.
In his first career Ford was a journalist. He covered civil rights throughout the South. His first story was an eyewitness account of the integration of the University of Mississippi when James Meredith was admitted in 1962. He worked for WDSU -TV and covered rallies, riots, protests and hurricanes in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee while he was a part-time student at Tulane University in New Orleans.
In 1969 Ford moved to Washington and covered the Nixon White House for three years. Then Ford became national security correspondent for NBC News and covered combat in Lebanon, the Watergate trials, and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Ford did reports about surveillance technology and wrote one of the first books on network security and privacy, TechnoSpies (1978) which described the computer network that became the Internet. This was the beginning of Ford’s interest in cybersecurity. During this time Ford attended graduate school part-time at American University and law school at Georgetown. He was the host of the weekly PBS program, International Edition, in the mid-1980s.
In his second career Ford practiced communications law in Washington and is the author of Broadcast Fairness, a 1984 analysis of the impact of regulation on news coverage. Rowan helped found the crisis management consulting firm of Rowan & Blewitt Incorporated in Washington. Ford advised clients on the September 11th air disasters, alleged financial fraud, restatements of earnings, environmental crimes, free trade issues, chemical safety, mad cow disease, SUV rollovers, silicone breast implants, the aftermath of the Valdez oil spill and five explosions at chemical plants and refineries.
His clients have included 8 pharmaceutical and medical device companies, 3 auto manufacturers, 3 high-tech corporations, 5 food companies, 5 universities, and 6 financial institutions. He has consulted on issues in ten countries including China, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, France, the UK, Canada and Tanzania. He coached executives on both strategy and tactics, including how to testify and excel in interviews.
He founded and served as chairman of the National Center for Critical Incident Analysis, a civilian research entity in Washington at the National Defense University. He advised the National Governors Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on ways to prepare for and respond to the pandemic of 2008-2009. He is the co-author of Weathering the Storm: Leading Your Organization Through a Pandemic (2006), What is to be done? Emerging Perspectives on Public Responses to Bioterrorism (2002), and Crisis Prevention, Management and Communication (1991).
Ford began teaching courses on politics and the media in 1980 in Northwestern University’s Washington Program. During this period, he also studied part-time in graduate programs in behavioral science at Johns Hopkins, interdisciplinary social science at Syracuse University, and organizational development at the University of Southern California’s Washington Center, where he earned a doctorate in public administration. His dissertation was Defending Against Bioterrorism: Lessons of the 2001 Anthrax Attack.
In his third career Ford works to resolve conflicts, promotes educational innovation, advocates for social justice and supports efforts that help adult students, inmates, counsellors and investors.
Ford is a founder of the International Dialogue Initiative, a group led by psychologists and psychiatrists who seek peaceful solutions to intractable conflicts between racial, ethnic and religious groups. The IDI seeks to understand the psychological barriers to peace, suggest interventions, and promote dialogue. He has worked on conflict resolution in Jerusalem, Istanbul, Baltimore, and Northern Ireland. He helped clergy and leaders of four political parties in Northern Ireland to consider solutions to sectarian strife. For a dozen years he taught conflict management and negotiation to graduate students at George Washington University.
A current focus is on academic innovation at the University of Maryland University College which is a giant institution that pioneered online education for non-traditional students (AKA working adults). Ford has also helped with non-traditional programs at traditional colleges. He is an active member of the advisory board of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. He authored a chapter “Deception and Trust in Health Crises,” in Deception: From Ancient Empires to Internet Dating” edited by B. Harrington in 2009. Some of his current activities are described in more detail elsewhere on this website.
He has represented shareholders as an independent director on the board of Legg Mason Mutual Funds since 2004. His interest in risk assessment, management and communication includes such challenges as cybersecurity. Legg Mason is headquartered in Baltimore, a city where Rowan has worked to reduce racism and promote peaceful dialogue.
Ford is active in church and interfaith initiatives. For two decades Ford has volunteered in the ecumenical Kairos Prison Ministry in ten prisons in five states, including Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. He has testified on criminal justice reform in Maryland and advocated for reform in Washington with the Disciples Center for Public Witness where he served as director of human rights ministries for several years.
He studied part time at the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary where he earned a master’s degree and certificate of advanced study in moral theology. He also attended St. John’s College in Annapolis and earned a degree in liberal arts (with a focus on ethics). He also studied online at the Harvard Extension School and wrote a thesis on the impact of trauma in provoking religious violence.
Ford helped organize a conference in Washington on prisoner reentry in 2013 at Wesley Seminary that was co-sponsored by the National Cathedral, the Howard University School of Divinity and several advocacy groups. He currently trains mentors for a reentry program to help ex-offenders released back into society in Maryland.
Ford and his wife, True Rowan, a retired attorney with the Criminal Division at the U.S. Justice Department, live in Annapolis.