“Landon Hill Rowland was born on May 20, 1937 in Fuquay Springs, North Carolina and died on December 28, 2015 at home on his farm in Kansas City, Missouri.
Landon was the eldest child of Walter Elton Rowland and Elizabeth Williams Rowland. His father moved the family to Portsmouth, Virginia to work in the shipyards during World War II. When Landon was 13, his father died and the family moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where Landon began his working life, taking jobs on the edges of his school days. One such job was working on a maintenance crew for the apartment complex in which he lived with his mother, brother Walter, and sister Anne. It was during this time as a young teenager that Landon was exposed to the asbestos that would cause the cancer that ended his life over sixty years later. The struggles of his family in the wake of his father’s death had a profound impact on his life and character, giving him an urgent drive to succeed and provide stability for his family. With that goal accomplished, Landon turned his attention to others, and particularly to the community of Kansas City, working tirelessly for those who face hardship, honoring and seeking fellowship with those who struggle with deprivation and illness.
Landon attended Dartmouth College where he received a degree in English Literature in 1959, and Harvard Law School where he received a JD in 1962. While at Dartmouth, he met Sarah Fidler, a student at Smith College; they were a well-matched pair, reading poetry, talking about books, dancing to jazz, and they were married on December 29, 1959 in Moberly, Missouri. Sarah’s Missouri roots brought the couple to Kansas City in 1962, with daughter Liza. Sons Matthew and Joshua were born to the couple in Kansas City, as was son Benjamin who died in early infancy.
Landon joined Watson Ess Marshall and Enggas in 1962 and practiced antitrust and intellectual property litigation until 1980. At that time he joined Kansas City Southern Industries, where he worked with William N. Deramus III, with whom he developed the defining relationship of his professional career and who provided an inspiration until the end of his life. Landon became President and Chief Operating Officer of KCSI in 1983 and CEO in 1987. Under Landon’s leadership, the company experienced tremendous growth, as the railroad expanded into Mexico and as DST and its mutual fund companies – Janus and Berger funds, INTECH Funds, Nelson Money Managers – flourished. From 1995 to 2003, he oversaw the reorganization of KCSI into three separate and thriving public companies: DST Systems, Janus Capital Group and Kansas City Southern. In his business life, Landon’s enthusiasm for new projects and ideas was unflagging. In 2005, he and Sarah purchased a small community bank based in Garden City, Missouri, which they later renamed Lead Bank. In 2015, they were pleased to cut the ribbon on a new branch of the Bank in the Crossroads of Kansas City.
Landon’s civic leadership and philanthropy were tireless and wide-ranging, reflecting the variety of his personal and intellectual interests, as well as his lifelong, instinctual commitment to the causes of the disenfranchised and marginalized. With Sarah as his partner, Landon was a steadfast advocate for the arts in Kansas City, serving in leadership roles for the Lyric Opera and the Metropolitan Performing Arts fund and enthusiastically supporting the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Symphony, the Harriman-Jewell Series, and the Friends of Chamber Music. Landon and Sarah were strong supporters of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and created the Ever Glades Fund for American Art in 2002. The museum named the American Art galleries in their honor. On the campus of the Pembroke Hill School, the Rowlands provided major funding for construction of Centennial Hall, which houses the school’s black box theatre, studio and performing arts classrooms and gallery spaces.
Landon worked alongside Buck O’Neill to found the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and served in leadership roles for the Linda Hall Library, the Liberty Memorial Association and the National World War I Museum. For 9 years, he served on the board of the National Catholic Reporter as the sole non-Catholic lay member. Nationally, he served on the Committee for Economic Development where he became an ardent advocate for campaign finance reform, and on Business Executives for National Security, where he became fully engaged in efforts to support the needs of veterans of the Armed Forces.
Landon was particularly inspired by his work with a number of community organizations addressing social welfare issues for Kansas City. He was the Board Chairman of the Swope Ridge Geriatric Center for 25 years. His association with the Local Investment Commission (LINC), where he served as Chairman from 1995 to 2014, brought him immeasurable gratification and learning. Landon faithfully served LINC, most notably in the development of its Caring Communities program, which emphasizes a grassroots approach to solving community problems. As an extension of his service to LINC, he was part of the group that helped shape the sale of Kansas City’s charity care hospitals to HCA Midwest Health, creating a foundation with the proceeds of the sale to provide funds to ensure ongoing access to health care for the disadvantaged in Kansas City. When it became clear to the Health Care Foundation that HCA was failing to live up it its charity commissions, Landon pushed the foundation to sue HCA, a lawsuit recently awarding $433 million to the foundation.
In 1987, Landon and Sarah moved to a farm north of the river where they began to breed and raise American Saddlebred horses. Landon wholeheartedly embraced the rural life, learning to ride and compete at horse shows and extending his involvement at the American Royal, where he served as Chairman of the Board and was named a lifetime director.
A committed skeptic and incorrigible sentimentalist, a businessman never in it for the money, a man of searching intellectual curiosity and great gusto, of irrepressible charm and moving eloquence, a lover of sweetbreads and scrapple, opera and comics, mischief and erudition, Landon Rowland was a man of compelling complexity with a true egalitarian spirit. He was also, more simply, a model of generosity and good works for his children and grandchildren. He will be profoundly missed. Landon is survived by his wife Sarah; his daughter Liza Townsend, her husband Guy and their children, Edward, Marjorie and Harriet; son Matthew Rowland, his wife Jennifer and their daughters, India and Beatrix; son Joshua Rowland, his wife Ann and their children, Alice and Wilfred Rowland; his brother Walter Rowland and his wife Beverley, and nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. Landon was preceded in death by his father and mother, his sister Leigh Anne Snow, and son Benjamin Jones Rowland.
Services will be held on Friday, January 8, at 3:00 pm at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, Missouri. For those friends who would like to make a donation in honor of Landon, the family respectfully requests that they consider Swope Ridge Geriatric Center.”