Herbert M. Howe (2010)

Herbert M. Howe, University of Wisconsin, Madison (June 29, 2010)

HERBERT M. HOWE filled his 98 years with scholarship and physical activity. He was born in Bristol, Rhode Island, March 21, 1912 to Wallis and Mary Locke Howe. He received his A.B. from Harvard in 1934, after which he taught at the Brooks School in North Andover, Mass., (1934-40). In 1941 he went to the University of Madison where, at the Episcopalian St. Francis House on University Avenue he met and married a Londoner, Evelyn Grace Mitchell, and acquired an M.A. in Classics. After teaching at the Pomfret School in Pomfret, Connecticut (1942-48), he received his Ph.D. (1948) from the University of Wisconsin, after which he was hired by the University as assistant professor of Classics. Howe made a specialty of the classics-in-translation courses that were becoming rapidly popular after World War II. He taught Greek and Latin Medical Terminology, Ancient Religion and the Early Church, and the hugely popular Classical Mythology. To support his teaching, he developed textbooks, notably Classics in Translation (1952) with his colleague Paul MacKendrick. This two-volume work, still in print in paperback, is the all-time best selling book from the University of Wisconsin Press. With Walter Agard he wrote Medical Greek and Latin, Ancient Religion and the Early Church and provided translations for Barry Powell’s Classical Mythology. With his wife Eve, who earned a Ph.D. at Wisconsin in 1946, he was a leader of the Integrated Liberal Studies Program at Wisconsin and in the 1950s served in loco parentis to the promising 15-16-year-old students who came to campus under a grant from the Ford Foundation. Graduates of this program later endowed the Herbert and Evelyn Howe Bascom Professorship for ILS professors. Herb once estimated that in his 34-year career in Madison that he had taught over 26,000 students, more than any other faculty member in the institution’s history.

To improve his teaching of medical terms he studied anatomy, which reinforced his ability to maintain his physical exercise regime, for physical as well as intellectual vigor characterized Herb. He and Eve never owned a car, but walked or bicycled everywhere. Herb held international records for his age group as a competitive Masters swimmer and at 88 was named Badger State Athlete of the Year in 2000. He once estimated that he had swum over 25,000 miles, the circumference of the earth at the equator. He and Eve were an inseparable couple throughout their nearly 70-year marriage, teaching, mentoring, hosting, walking, and biking all over Madison, when they were not working (Herb continued to contribute translations into his 90s and at 94 published an article on the anatomist Johannes Wepfer) in their great Gothic house. He died on June 29, 2010 in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, at the age of 98. Eve Howe, aged 94, followed him two days later.

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