F. Alexander Howe ’70
F. Alexander Howe ’70 died December 18, 2009.
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Among his many facets, Sandy Howe was a painter while at Amherst. His teacher, Fairfield Porter, saw and knew something very special in Sandy, which—in our brash youth—many of the rest of us could not see or feel as clearly and did not appreciate as fully as Fairfield did.
Beneath the both shy and ebullient surface, there was a profoundly sensitive, caring human who watched, saw, felt and understood so much. It came out in his paintings, but even more when he found his way into architecture. Sandy knew architecture—and it’s certainly how he practiced it—as reflective of the highest human aspirations. His imagination, plans and drawings led to the realization of spaces and structures enhancing human endeavor, and doing so with grace and beauty. He focused on planning and design for academic and research institutions, creating environments uniting intellectual and social interactions, which were (and remain) remarkably responsive to both the specific natural environments and the contextual conditions. Sandy could also take an existing structure and give it new life, far beyond what seemed possible. There are buildings at Amherst attesting to this. As a complement to his vocation, Sandy was a superb mentor to a new generation of architects.
Put Sandy out in the backyard, on a beach, in a field or the woods, out in dirt, sun and rain, perhaps with a few bits of clothing on his body and a tool in his hands—a shovel, chainsaw or pencil—and he was where he wanted to be, happy to be making something. But Sandy was just as happy to be with other people. Deeply committed to friends and family, he was a gentle spirit, giving as fiercely as he was receptive to the gift of life. Those who know him show, speak and sing this out very clearly and vibrantly.
Written by Ron Dewdney
F. Alexander Howe Class of 1970 — In Memoriam
My father was adored by his immediate and extended family, friends, and colleagues alike. He brought a unique combination of creativity and vitality to parenting, architecture, and the various other relationships and endeavors to which he dedicated himself. He was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2009, but continued his renaissance through his final months, nurturing relationships with his beloved family, and working feverishly on architectural drawings for a renovation to the family homestead in Newton, MA. He died in December, at home, ensconced in the presence and love of his wife Lisbeth, his children Alice and Augie ’04, and his sister-in-law Susan. We are ever grateful for the myriad and exquisite condolences and vivid recollections of him.
He was born in Cincinnati, OH, the youngest child of Dennett Howe ’30, and Esther Hankinson, in 1946. His mother died during his infancy, and his father later married Rosamond Kendall, who herself had been widowed by the war in the Pacific Theater. Their union introduced young Timothy to the ranks of my father’s older siblings William, Susan, and Nancy, and soon brought a younger brother, Jonathan. The demands of his father’s presidency of the Philippine Manufacturing Company, a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, sent my father, in his own words, “roaming the globe… from the tiny villages of the Philippines and the teeming hillsides of Hong Kong, to the seemingly ideal creations of European universities, Japanese castles and the Roman temple of Baalbeck in Lebanon.” He was rooted in New England as well, spending childhood summers amongst the Green Mountains at his great uncle Frank’s rustic home in Stowe, VT.
At 16, while on vacation from Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, he met Lisbeth Montzingo Berman at Tamarack Farm, the coed Farm & Wilderness camp, and their lifelong partnership began. The day following his graduation from Amherst College in 1970, the couple married, and he was adopted into bosom of her close-knit family.
Over the following decade, he refined his artistic proclivities, teaching art at Deerfield Academy, painting the sunswept seascapes of the Greek isles, and completing his Master’s in Architecture at Clemson University in 1980. In 1983, he joined Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott, the historic Boston architectural firm where he became principal and designed, among others, the new James & Stearns Halls, and redesigned Charles Pratt Dormitory, for his alma mater. Much like his father’s, his work brought him to diverse corners of the world, and established SBRA’s international reach.
Having found an exquisite balance between fatherhood and work following Augie’s birth in 1982, while Lisbeth was in her pediatrics residency, he again devoted himself to childrearing with the birth of Alice (Smith ’13) in 1991. Undoubtedly Newton’s hippest father, his sophisticated eye brought a new perspective to casual Fridays at the office, and he tenaciously protected his rugged Vermont idyll for future generations. He taught all of those whom he knew how to separate the chaff from the truly essential elements of a rich and happy life. He will be remembered for these strengths, his honest love, and for the edifices of his creative legacy.
- Augie Howe