News 2012: Donald Howard, beloved Dean of Students, passes away at 82

News 2012: Donald Howard, beloved Dean of Students, passes away at 82
Donald Howard, beloved Dean of Students, passes away at 82

Longtime student affairs leader touched thousands of lives at SMU, UMass Dartmouth


"Every day I encounter the results of Dean Howard's life and service,'' said Chancellor Divina Grossman, who joined UMass Dartmouth this summer. "Our students' engagement in the life of the University and their passionate involvement in the civic life of their community are his legacy. Students knew they had a friend, mentor and advocate in him. Alumni I meet all over the country tell me of his willingness to listen, problem solve, and even cajole at times so that they would succeed at school and life."

Howard joined the University in the same year the first building on campus was completed and led student affairs through four decades and several generations of students, as the University evolved from a commuter school rooted in the textile industry to a world-class university with more than 50,000 alumni -- many of whom Howard knew personally.

"Don Howard set an example that ought to be emulated by educators nationwide," said Senator Mark Montigny '84. "The Dean's positive influence on students at our University is peerless and is a worthy testament to his years of work at the University.

"Dean Howard personified what a college administrator should be," he added. "To him, the student always came first and he always made the time to sit and speak with any student who sought his counsel. He listened intently, then gently advised on direction and when a decision was made, fully supported an individual's choice. His belief in empowering students and building their esteem and character is reflected in the lives of the thousands of students he mentored and loved."

"Don Howard was a dear and valued friend for forty-five years," said former Governor Michael S. Dukakis. "I first met him when I was beginning to think about running for statewide office, and KItty and I hit it off with him from the first time we met him. He was not only a passionate supporter - he helped me to get to know and understand the problems and challenges both the University and southeastern Massachusetts faced, and he had as much to do as anybody with the kind of commitment I made to the SouthCoast and the work we did with so many of you in the region and at the University.

"He spent Thanksgiving with us and Kitty's sister's family, but our friendship extended far beyond that, and he was absolutely consumed by my Presidential run," added Dukakis. "I have no doubt that he would have spent some time in the Lincoln Bedroom if I had won, and I only regret that he and I never had the chance to take a new commuter train ride from Boston to New Bedford.

"Politics has its challenges, but the friendships one makes in the course of a political career are very precious. Ours with Don was one of them."

Hired in 1966 as the Dean of Men, Howard served as Dean of Students, then as Associate Vice Chancellor of Alumni Relations until his retirement in 2003, and remained part of the campus community as a consultant until 2007.

Over that time, he created student government and leadership structures, the student judiciary system, the student-run activity fee and disbursement system, the theater company and the Lecture Series that brought state, national and world leaders to campus.

"When I think of Donald, I think of loyalty: to the University, the students, the people in his life. If Donald loved you, he never let you go," said Irene Tsouprake '78, who met Howard when she edited The Torch newspaper.

"Donald could make you believe that you mattered in a world that mattered," she added, "and he made thousands of students know that, too."

"There was nothing in it for him except that he loved helping people," said Jeff Augustine '88, the Director of Campus Services. "He was also a person who would listen, someone who would always care for other people. I wouldn't be where I am today without Don.

"He really was the face of this institution for many years," he added. "For many people he is SMU and UMass Dartmouth."

"It is impossible to put into words the impact that Don Howard had on my life and the life of other students,'' said Matthew Morrissey '96, who served two terms as Student Trustee and is now the Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

"Whether he was making sure I was studying, encouraging me to demonstrate leadership on student issues, or even introducing me to my wife, Don dedicated himself to my success. What makes Don truly unique, is that he has invested in similar ways in the lives of thousands of others."

"During my first 6 months here at Umass Dartmouth, Dean Howard made it a point to visit with me each day to tell me stories about the University. He wanted to make sure that I knew how things started and why certain things were the way they were," said David Milstone, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. "He was extremely generous with his time and loved to tell UMD stories. He was so very proud of his institution and cared deeply about its future.

"Dean Howard will be greatly missed, but his legacy will most certainly live on. The greatest accomplishment one can have in leadership is to witness the successful leadership practiced by those mentored - Don was a superb leader and an even better person."

Barbara Costa, who was Howard's assistant for many years, recalled that he was a fixture at former students' family funerals and weddings -- even going so far once as to borrow University china for an alumnus' wedding. His passion to help and to stay connected was unique, she said: "There'll never be a another Dean Donald Howard. He was an amazing man, he will be missed desperately. He's irreplaceable, and that's what is great about him."

Born in Chicago, a son of the late Robert A. and Flora E. (McNeil) Howard, he was a New Bedford resident for more than 45 years. A 1954 graduate of Boston University (where he was "Man of the Year"), Howard worked briefly in advertising before returning to BU to start a career in university administration. In 1966, he was recruited from Wagner College in New York State by SMU President Joseph Driscoll.

Among his many honors, Howard received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University in 2008, as well as National Association of Student Personnel Administration's Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean in 2001, the Alumni Association University Service Award in 1998 and the Distinguished Service to University Award in 1997.

Dr. Manuel Carreiro, then Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs at Quinnipiac College, nominated Howard for the Goodnight Award due to his "sense of responsibility and above all, a genuine concern for people and their needs. This is exactly the reason why he has become a living legend for so many of us who have been touched and influenced by his unselfish work and dedication."

The UMass Dartmouth Alumni Association honored him with the words: "Your unwavering commitment to this school, its students, and its graduates has been the centerpiece of your life."

Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who appointed Howard to two 3-years terms on the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, nominated him for his honorary doctorate by noting that "many of the former student leaders mentored by Mr. Howard are now playing key leadership roles in our Commonwealth's civic life...They are equipped with a passion, work ethic and an unquenchable desire to do good for others passed on to them by Donald C. Howard."

Howard also served for more than 16 years on the Board of Trustees of Gordon College, and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

He is survived by three nieces, Beverly, Lois and Beth, and their families. He was also the brother of the late Robert Howard.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in his honor may be made to the Donald C. Howard Scholarship Fund, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Foundation, Foster Administration Building , UMass Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, MA, 02747. For funeral arrangements please visit