Legacy Series: A Glimpse of Howey

Posted: Monday, August 28th 2017 at 12:15 PM

HRM Professor Rich Howey arrived at Northern Arizona University (NAU) on graduation day, December of 1990. He came into town during one of “the worst snow storms Flagstaff has ever had.”

“Missed the first three exits on I-40; you couldn't see ’em. Finally saw what turned out to be Milton and found a hotel. On the radio, they said ‘if you are in town, stay home; if you’re not, don't come,’” he chuckles. But come they did and more than 26 years later, Howey can’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be.

He went to Washington State for his MBA. The director of Washington State’s hotel program became the director of Penn State’s hotel program, and Howey followed. He achieved his PhD while teaching in the hotel school as an instructor for five and a half years. But weather-wise, his young family was unhappy and wanted to be somewhere out West.

Then-Associate Dean of NAU’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM), Dr. Bill Miller, recruited Howey through a connection they had in the past and after an encounter at the ICHRIE Convention in Washington the year before.

Howey’s first semester teaching was Spring of ’91. He was two years behind the founding faculty of the School. He recalls that there was a lot of humor in the building when he arrived.

“Bill Miller is one of the funniest guys I've ever met in my life. Ever. EVER!! And Jim Murphy's funny. We had a staff member named Corliss Rogers who was absolutely hysterical,” he smiles. To give this context, he explains the contrast from where he had been.

“I was coming from Penn State, which was the ultimate bureaucracy. There were 80,000 students spread around the [Pennsylvania] Commonwealth and 40,000 in State College.

“I had lived in Phoenix for three years in the ’70s so I knew Arizona; I knew Flagstaff. I did not know NAU. There was nothing of that bureaucracy here. It was a lot less regimented – and it was West.

“When I arrived, the majority of the HRM faculty were from the industry. I had been teaching college. Two different places. I grew up in an academic family. My father was a prof; my mother was head of a government documents library. So I grew up part of that university culture.

“No turf battles here. It's kinda unusual. You put one group in with another group, cat fights. It's never been the case here. It's been pretty mellow. That was true across campus. Talking to other people was more of, ‘how ya doing’ instead of ‘make an appointment’. It was refreshing,” he said.

Howey has logged thirty-eight years of teaching between Washington State, Penn State, and HRM. Over his career, Howey’s taught 20-25 courses. At HRM, he’s taught primarily marketing, but also senior seminar. “... whatever they needed. I was HRM’s director for six years. The past few years it’s just settled in on the marketing class,” he said.

Howey brought the study abroad program to HRM from Penn State, partnering with schools in Switzerland and Amsterdam. In time, he handed the program over to Paul Wiener, but had led the trip 13 times by then, ten with HRM, twice with Penn State, and once with Washington State.

He is now in his third year of his three-year phased retirement, teaching two classes one semester and one class the other. “It's a nice way to phase out. And there's no turning back. Will I leave town? I'm not really sure,” he said.

He contemplates becoming a snowbird, staying in Flagstaff for nine months of the easy weather and then heading to Phoenix for January, February, and March. “...I shouldn't be shoveling snow anymore. And I'm a baseball nut and particularly a Kansas City Royal nut. So I’ve been plotting about going down and getting a time share or something for those three months,” he said.

Howey’s father taught for forty-four years even though he wasn't planning on do it long at all. Life’s course took him along a journey that was unexpected, but it all turned out fine in the end.

Recalls Howey, “My dad started teaching in 1929 and the stock market crashed. He hung on to his job and stayed until they forced him out at the age of 70. If he were still alive, he would sit here and say, ‘You tell me about economic problems. I was teaching for two months when the stock market crashed... everything was falling apart; in the ’40's, universities were going to cease to exist; ’50's, we were going to get bombed into oblivion; ’60's, all that stuff happened; and so yes, it's going to be fine.’”

“As for me after I leave? Am I going to hang outside looking in windows? No. I don't have anything against that. It’s just time to go,” he said with his signature chuckle.

Categories: rich howey legacy series summer 2017 2017