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“All the cool people are from Ridgway,” he tells one young woman from a lumber town in the remote northern section of Pennsylvania. When another student murmurs that he’s not from anywhere interesting — he grew up just a few minutes from campus — Howard turns it up another notch. “Don’t be shy about Moon Township,” he says, his voice rising. “Cool things are happening in Moon Township! Especially here at Robert Morris.” The arrival of RMU’s eighth president is one of those things that Moon Township, not to mention the entire Pittsburgh region, can get excited about. Howard is a distinguished educator, a Rhodes scholar, a decorated veteran, and according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial published the day after his selection was announced, “a star” whose appointment is “a win for the school and evidence of its increasing national stature.” In six years as president of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, a historic all-male liberal arts institution and one of the oldest colleges in the nation (Patrick Henry was an original trustee), Howard chalked up a string of successes, presiding over growing enrollment and retention rates, increased alumni donations including the biggest gift in the school’s history, and individual achievements such as the first Truman and Goldwater scholars in 20 years. He came to Hampden-Sydney from the University of Oklahoma, where he was vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives and director of the honors college leadership center. With a career that is a study in forward momentum, the former helicopter pilot explains that it was that same quality that put Robert Morris on his radar. “You can’t manufacture momentum. Institutions either have it or they don’t, and RMU has it,” he says. “Whether it be the athletics program, the capital infrastructure that is being built, the quality of

graduates that are coming out and doing well in the workforce, the Gallup study (showing RMU alumni work and life success compared to the average U.S. college graduate) — it makes for a compelling sense that the school just has energy, you know? I’d much rather be going to a university that has created that than have to come up with it out of thin air.” Speaking to faculty and staff at a recent town hall-style meeting on campus, Howard laid out the general outlines of what he expects to bring to the university. Along with the typical qualities expected of a new executive — a fresh perspective, the willingness to ask potentially difficult questions, an opportunity to unite the campus community behind key goals, and a desire to advocate and spread the word to the wider community — he also made a point of mentioning the “buzz” that his appointment has already shown it can garner. “I keep coming back to his ability to utilize the media to advance our goals,” said R. Josh Fogle M’10, a treasury management officer and vice president at PNC in downtown Pittsburgh. Fogle, a Virginia native, graduated from Hampden-Sydney College before coming to Pittsburgh for his banking career and his M.B.A., so he has seen Howard in action. “He was in the news speaking about Hampden-Sydney all the time,” Fogle says, “and he’ll be able to do the same for Robert Morris but have an even bigger effect, not only because of the size of the school but also because of Pittsburgh and what Pittsburgh’s all about, its renaissance.” Howard also won over students and alumni alike, Fogle says, through his clear appreciation and respect for the 240-year-old college’s history and traditions. It seems an approach Howard

R O B E R T M O R R I S U N I V E R S I T Y F O U N D AT I O N S • 1 3

Foundations Winter 2016  

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