Arthur Howe ’72 has dedicated his career to public service and safety, including work in firefighting and emergency management. His most recent role is lead coordinator for the Maine Shark Workgroup, an interdisciplinary multi-state group that strives “to understand sharks, their movement, and population, and to advocate for shark education, particularly for public safety.”
Howe’s life’s work is in his blood. “Public service and education have been intertwined in my family history, starting at least as far back as the early 1800s. There were teachers, a college president, college and school administrators—all having a robust passion for government, community, and civic activity.”
Some of Howe’s earliest memories of Hotchkiss involve picking up or dropping off his brother Sam Howe ’66. He said he loved visiting with Tom Blagden ’29, P’57,’69, GP’82,’83,’85,’90,’96,’08, Fred Gevalt P’64,’66,’69, GP’01, and Dick Gurney P’53,’57, GP’85. “Fred and Dick were both fly fishing aficionados, which didn't hurt the cause for me to attend Hotchkiss!” The Howe family was passionate about hiking, canoeing, and fishing, so the School’s natural environment was a great fit for this outdoorsman. “The faculty even supported the formation of a varsity conservation group in which I participated during my senior year.”
Howe’s father, Arthur Howe Jr. ’38, P’66,’72,’75, matriculated at Yale after graduating from Hotchkiss and returned to Lakeville to teach in the 1940s. “He was inspired throughout his life by the revered Headmaster George Van Santvoord, Class of 1908,” says Howe. “Following Dad’s time teaching at Hotchkiss, he served as the Yale dean of admission from 1955 to 1964. He was the first dean to publicly advocate for a co-ed student body, deeply believing in the worth and dignity of every individual.” His father received the Alumni Award—Hotchkiss’s highest honor—in 1969 in recognition of his many life achievements, including his presidency of the American Field Service.
While majoring in geography and minoring in environmental studies at Dartmouth, Howe joined the local fire department in Hanover, NH in 1974. He graduated from both Dartmouth and the state fire academy in 1976 before returning to Connecticut to work for various environmental organizations and perform volunteer duties overseen by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Howe worked at several other fire departments before joining the West Hartford Fire Department in 1980, retiring as battalion fire chief after 23 years to take a position at the Connecticut Fire Academy. He spent the next few years serving as fire chief of the coastal town of Ipswich, MA, and then five years as chief and manager of public safety at Ipswich’s Crane Beach.
Following the death of six people in a tragic fire in Portland, ME, in 2014, Howe was hired to head the Housing Safety Office for the state’s largest city. He prioritized checks for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and safety exits before returning to New Hampshire as the town of Harpswell’s first fire administrator. He was known for developing relationships, encouraging partnerships, and coordinating the town’s three independent fire departments. He retired after six years of service.
Howe notes that volunteer fire departments are now under enormous stress with increased training demands and service calls, as well as decreased civic participation. “They still make up most of the nation’s fire departments and the majority of emergency responders. Though increasingly transitioning to partial career staffing, many will continue to hold their all-volunteer status. They respond to fewer fires, but there are many more medical emergency calls encompassing a wider risk than ever imagined.”
Emergency management has changed over the years, the largest change being the variety of services offered and the breadth of emergencies. “Before 1970, most fire departments responded to just fire-related calls and significant motor vehicle accidents. Now we encompass those plus hazardous materials, all forms of technical rescue, fire prevention and inspection, and community risk reduction, with the largest component being emergency medical services. We are now an all-risk service.” He emphasized that the public and politicians need to be concerned about fire safety, including wildland fires. “The speed of fire growth inside buildings and in wildfires is astounding—the public needs to shed complacency and become better prepared.”
Howe offers some advice particular to the holidays. “Be extra vigilant in the kitchen, and don’t leave the stove unattended. Be sure to have multiple operating smoke detectors at every level of the home, vacuum them annually, and install one in every bedroom or sleeping area for maximum protection. Don't forget a carbon monoxide detector at every habitable level of the home, as carbon monoxide is a silent killer.”
Of his work as the lead coordinator for the Maine Shark Workgroup, Howe explains, “Our group has some very high-level professionals from the National Park Service, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, the New England Aquarium, two additional scientists, and a number of public safety officials from Maine and New Hampshire.”
Howe’s deep ties to Hotchkiss remain important to him. “I support the School in the hopes that someone is granted the opportunity to have a superb education that would otherwise be beyond their reach.” He strongly encourages students to consider careers in public service. “You won't command a large salary, but the opportunity to perform service for the greater good is a reward itself. The occasion to help a person on the most traumatic day of their life is the most intimate, personal reward I can imagine.”
Howe welcomes contact from the Hotchkiss community. Reach him via email or at 860-324-0422.