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Helen Cooper Howe: UC Ties Stayed Strong

She was an energetic, independent person, one recalled by her family and friends as a woman who followed her interests and her heart.

Date: 1/17/2007
By: Britt Kennerly
Phone: (513) 556-8577
She was an energetic, independent person, one recalled by her family and friends as a woman who followed her interests and her heart.

The family of Helen Cooper Howe recently held a celebration of the life of the lifelong Cincinnatian, a 1943 A&S Classics and teaching graduate who died Nov. 13, 2006, at age 85. She is survived by her husband, Robert T. Howe, professor emeritus in the UC College of Engineering; two daughters, Barb Howe and Nancy Bull; her son, Steve Howe, head of the UC Department of Psychology; a son-in-law, David Bull; a daughter-in-law, Shelley Rooney; and much-loved grandchildren, Alexander and Zachary Howe.

In a tribute for his spouse of 61 years, Robert.Howe called her a "cherished wife" and his "best friend," a woman whose friends described her as friendly and helpful.


Helen Cooper Howe

He also shared a wealth of stories about his wife's teaching career, which started with full-time work, stopped for a few years as she raised three children and started again when she took up substitute teaching in the Cincinnati Public Schools system.

"In 1962 she began 20 years of half-time teaching at Walnut Hills High School for two years in Latin and for the remaining years in Ancient and Medieval History," her husband wrote.

"After teaching, Helen's greatest gift was a sense of empathy; she could strike up a conversation anywhere she went and before long she would be listening with sympathy to problems. She had innumerable telephone counseling sessions without ever using a cell phone."

Howe's daughter Nancy Bull conveyed her mother's love of bridge that developed while Helen an only child was a student at UC, and "her deep disappointment that I never learned to play as part of my college education."

"The war years made the difference and they apparently played bridge as entertainment while the men were gone," said Bull, associate dean, Outreach and Public Service, and associate director, Cooperative Extension System, at the University of Connecticut.

The family's ties to UC are strong, said Barb Howe, director of the Center for Women's Studies and associate professor of history at West Virginia University.

Her mother, Barb Howe thinks, "really owed her UC education to the endowments in the Classics Department she was a Classics major because she got a scholarship there."

"Since my sister, brother, and I are all in higher education, we know how important private fund-raising is in providing scholarships, and Mom definitely benefited from those scholarships," she said. "She did what was known as the 4-A program when I did it a BA in classics and a Bachelor of Education.

"While Mom and Dad were the first in their immediate families to go to UC, Mom's cousin (like a brother to her) was a UC graduate in 1938," said Howe who, like her sister, did not learn to play bridge!

"Dad also has a master's from UC, my BA and BS in Education were in 1969 from UC; my sister has a bachelor's and master's from UC, my brother has a bachelor's and PhD from UC and my sister-in-law has a PhD from UC."

Her mother's connections to her Phi Mu sorority sisters and her Mortar Board class remained true, Barb Howe said.

"Most of those who are still living in the Cincinnati area were at the celebration of her life on Nov. 25, and they got together until very recently the Phi Mu group last met, I think, in 2004, so that was about 64 years of regular meetings and the Mortar Board group last got together some time in 2006, as I recall. One of her Phi Mu sisters grew up next to her and was like her sister and is my godmother."

And life was very different in every way when Helen graduated with her UC class during World War II.

"You couldn't get nylon stockings so women wore leg makeup and drew a line up the back of the leg with something like a mascara pencil," Barb Howe said. "It was very, very hot that night and they were wearing white dresses, and she said the leg makeup ran and got onto the dresses."

Helen also used her UC education at the Cincinnati Art Museum, where she was a docent for almost 20 years.

"She loved giving tours of the collections there that featured ancient and medieval art - and apparently also helped a lot of the other docents learn about those collections," Barb Howe said.

"Then, after retirement, she and Dad co-authored a text book for Longman's on ancient and medieval history that was used in high schools and colleges for many years."

That book, "Ancient & Medieval Worlds," was followed by a job offer from Longman Publishing Co., one that led to a four-year stint for Helen as sales representative in Ohio for its entire line of publications.

Helen's concern for others, her husband said, "extended beyond life, for she wanted her remains to be used by the College of Medicine."

And in that spirit, they asked that any donations in her name be made to a favorite charity or funds, including one supporting scholarships in UC's Department of Women's Studies. "Our women's studies program here at West Virginia University started a scholarship for returning women students about 1987," Barb Howe said.

"I understood from our director at the time that she got the idea from a scholarship that the UC program gave. When I mentioned it to Mom, she really liked that idea and began giving money for such a scholarship at UC."

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