Mow Family Ties Run Deep at Rensselaer
A Tribute, by his family, to Harry Chao-Chow Mow ’53, Ph.D. ’59 (1930-2005)
On March 1, 2005, Rensselaer lost a good friend and a loyal supporter. Harry C. C. Mow came to RPI in September of 1949 following his emigration from China in December of 1947. At that time, the conflicts of the Chinese Communist Revolution were at their height. He was advised by his father’s aide, who was a mechanical engineer: “Go to RPI; it is an excellent engineering school.” Little did Harry know then that his educational involvement with RPI would last 11 years, and the Mow family’s direct involvement with RPI would last for more than half a century. This commitment continues to this day with the establishment of the Mow Family Scholarship by Harry and his younger brother Bill (’59 EE), a former trustee of Rensselaer. This fund has supported students from around the world in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, systems engineering, and architecture. Harry was also a member of the RPI alumni board.
Due to difficult financial and family circumstances, Harry became the father figure for his four younger brothers at the age of 21. Later, all four younger brothers would also go to RPI for their engineering education. Harry was married to Connie Wong shortly following his graduation from RPI. He and his young bride lived at Rensselaerwyck, then the graduate and married student housing located just behind the Field House. On a tiny graduate student stipend, Harry and Connie generously and frequently hosted younger brothers Donald (’57, Arch.), Bill (’59, EE), Van (’62, AE), and Maurice (’63, CE) for both meals and housing. Particularly welcome were some of their excellent home-cooked Chinese meals. In 1959, Harry received his Ph.D. in applied mechanics from the Mechanics Department.
Upon receiving his doctorate, Harry worked briefly at the Benet Research Laboratory of the Watervliet Arsenal. In 1960, he joined the Mitre Corporation in Bedford, Mass. In 1963, with the irresistible beckoning of the Golden State, Harry moved his young family to Southern California, where he worked for the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica. RAND is the “think tank” of the U.S. Air Force. He did research on many challenging applied mathematics and mechanics problems. In one area, he studied the effects of seismic motion on the stability and structural integrity of underground Minuteman missile silos. This was very important work for the Department of Defense. As a result of these studies, Harry and Dr. Yih-Hsing Pao ’55 published a monograph entitled Diffraction of Elastic Waves and Dynamic Stress Concentrations, Crane Russak Publishers, New York, 1973. Dr. Pao was a faculty member and chairman of the Department of Theoretical Mechanics at Cornell University, and retired as J.C. Ford Professor; he is now professor of civil engineering at Zhejiang University in China. Professor Pao met Harry as a graduate student in the old Mechanics Department at RPI, and has remained a lifelong close friend with Harry and Connie, as well as the Mow family. This monograph is a widely quoted book in the literature, and is one of the standard works for studies on elastic wave propagation. Jointly with YH, Harry was working on a new edition of the monograph until he became seriously ill.
During the real estate boom of the late 1970s and 1980s, Harry left the prestigious RAND Corporation, and with his partners formed Century West Development Inc. He was CEO and chairman of the board of Century West. This real estate venture was wildly successful. The company developed many real estate projects not only in the greater Los Angeles area, but also in San Diego, Huntsville, Ala., and Orlando, Fla. Highlights of these developments include nearly 3,500 multi-family apartments and condominium units built, 1 million square feet of commercial and retail space completed, and an 88-unit senior retirement home in Santa Monica currently in operation. Amid these activities, Harry was also a partner and member of the board of directors of the King’s Seafood Company. This company owns and manages 13 restaurants, including the highly acclaimed Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles and Oceans Avenue Seafood in Santa Monica.
Harry’s energy, creativity, and generosity were well-known in the Los Angeles region. He was on the boards of directors of the UCLA Hospital, Preferred Bank of LA, and the Center for the Partially Sighted. His civic duties took him to the LA Chinatown Service Center, and the board of the Asian Business League. He regularly attended their board meetings and gave advice with clarity and wisdom.
In his younger days, and during the good times, Harry became a scratch golfer, even winning the club championship at Chevy Chase Club in Washington, D.C. This became a lifelong avocation for him. He was also an enthusiast for deep sea fishing for marlins and sailfish, as well as a crack shot for pheasant hunting. He and his family regularly skied in the Sierra Mountains of California, the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, and the Rockies of Colorado. In his later years, he traveled with Connie throughout the world, particularly enjoying Hawaii.
Harry is survived by his wife, Connie, who lives in Malibu, Calif., in a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which he built during the mid 1970s. They have two daughters and two sons. The oldest is Barnum, who is CEO and president of Newport Sportswear, headquartered in Irvine, Calif. Jackie, the second-born, is a television producer specializing in science documentaries, and many have been broadcasted on the public television network. She and her husband live in Cambridge, Mass. The third-born is Bettina who is a teacher at San Andreas High School in Larkspur, Calif., teaching social studies as well as working on projects with “at-risk” adolescents. Finally, Peter, senior vice president for real estate and construction for SKECHERS, USA, lives in LA. Harry is also survived by three grandsons and two granddaughters.