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President John R. Howard, 1922-2013

June 17, 2013

  • President John R. Howard, 1922-2013

President Barry Glassner made the following announcement to the Lewis & Clark community on June 17:

I write to share the sad news that President Emeritus John R. “Jack” Howard died Sunday at age 90. Jack’s beloved wife, Ruth, and other members of his family were with him.

Jack’s boundless energy and imagination transformed Lewis & Clark into today’s college without borders. In July 1960, he succeeded Morgan Odell as the second president of Lewis & Clark College on Palatine Hill. Over the next 21 years, his leadership forever changed the academic stature and physical imprint of the college. A few examples:

  • He launched our signature overseas and off-campus study program, now entering its 51st year.
  • He doubled the number of full-time faculty and students in the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • He presided over the merger of the college with Northwestern School of Law, creating a day program with full-time faculty and students to complement the existing evening program.
  • He led the construction of major buildings, including Aubrey Watzek Library, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Pamplin Sports Center with Zehntbauer Swimming Pavilion, Fir Acres Theatre, Olin Center for Physics and Chemistry, and the Law School campus, not to mention numerous residence halls, many renovations, and small projects that vitalized campus life.
  • He shepherded Lewis & Clark’s transition into an independent liberal arts college that continued to affirm its historic ties with the Presbyterian Church.

Such was Jack’s zeal for moving the college forward through vibrant academic programs and new buildings that he came to be called “a man with an edifice complex”—a title he relished and was fond of repeating. Jack had a simple explanation for this focus: “I was trying to make the entire campus community aware that we were going somewhere.”

That “somewhere” included new explorations off campus, not only outside Oregon but also outside the United States. In the early 1960s, Jack recognized that Lewis & Clark graduates “must be prepared to travel, to understand other cultures, to speak other languages, to believe in and work toward a world none of us had known to date.”

His insight became our pioneering overseas study program. It is a tribute to Jack—and one indicator of his legacy—that alumni often tell me that their experience overseas forever shaped their outlook and future careers. And attendees at our annual reunion weekend frequently say that some of their deepest connections to the college and to their classmates were formed while studying abroad.

For all his many accomplishments, one of Jack’s happiest and proudest moments as president came when his wife, Ruth, graduated from Lewis & Clark with a Bachelor of Arts in 1965. He was fond of recalling that he presented her “with her diploma and a big kiss in the outdoor graduation ceremonies at Griswold Field.”

Jack was also a tireless civic and community leader, active on the boards of corporations and nonprofits and a vital member of business, service, and educational organizations. 

In April 2005, the college paid tribute to Jack by dedicating John R. Howard Hall in his name. In fact, you cannot walk far on campus without encountering a building that bears Jack Howard’s mark in some way or another. But his “edifice complex” is not Jack’s most enduring gift to our college. That would be his educational vision, his profound belief in the liberal arts, and his delight in generating free and open discussions by faculty and students of conflicting ideas and points of view. Jack’s legacy remains in the lively give-and-take that is our hallmark inside and outside the classroom.

In addition to Ruth, his wife of 67 years, Jack is survived by children John Howard and his wife, Carol; Linda Fisher and her husband, Emerson; Rebecca Emerson and her husband, Barrow; five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

The family has not yet finalized plans for a memorial. We will communicate further, as appropriate, when details are known.

Barry Glassner
President and Professor

For more information:

Office of the President
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