Sunday, May 20, 2012

Remembering Larry Howard

To listen to the KUCI Subversity Online podcast of the Larry Howard Memorial Reception, click on: .
Updated: New University story: Online edition | pdf of print: scroll to page 6 with different photo
Larry Howard photographed 17 February 2012 at the UCI Law School. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2012
Larry Howard's commitment to peace and justice and to educating his students in the social sciences came through loud and clear as family members, colleagues on the UC Irvine campus, community peace activists and assorted friends gathered to celebrate his life 16 May 2012 on the patio next to Social Sciences Tower.

The long-time Social Sciences Lecturer who had an abiding faith in the human ability to improve world conditions was remembered as an Orange County native who spent his entire university education and later career at UC Irvine.

My retired colleague, philosophy bibliographer Eddie Yeghiayan recalls TA'ing for a philosophy professor - long gone from UCI - who was not nice to Larry, who took that class as an undergraduate at UC Irvine in the 1970s. Eddie remembers how the TAs felt empathy for Larry, sitting in a wheelchair, at the back of the classroom near the TAs, and disliked the attitude of that professor. This was long before attitudes towards the disabled began improving, and long before UCI established its Disability Services Center, at which Larry would work most recently.

In 1986, the year I arrived at UCI as a newly hired Social Sciences bibliographer, Larry Howard completed his Ph.D, also at UCI, writing a thesis on "Maturation and memory span: a study of the development of short-term memory in children using electrophysiological and behavioral measures." At Irvine, social sciences had pioneered in transgressing disciplinary boundaries, originally under leadership of social sciences dean James March, and Larry was a perfect fit - he would teach broadly in the social sciences, in classes spanning psychology, arms control, and nuclear conflict.

In fact, he was there when Global Peace and Conflict Studies (GPACS) was started at UC Irvine and soon became involved with organizing a conference, in the 1989-1990 school year, on "Terrorism." After the conference, which brought on campus key contemporary thinkers and researchers on the topic, Larry asked me to index the resulting publication, which he edited. I was honored to help with this project by compiling a 15-page index, of this work, which became GPACS' first (and only) book, Terrorism: Roots, Impacts, Responses, which Larry edited and wrote the preface. Thanks to digitization, portions of the the book are now searchable online.

Sadly, the same day as the memorial gathering for Larry Howard also saw another memorial reception, that for GPACS co-founder Julie Margolis, the noted economist at UCI. His daughter, Jane, told the Howard gathering that Larry would visit Julie at the hospital every day for several weeks until the end. Sadly, two weeks later, Howard also departed.

A youthful Larry Howard - photo from among those displayed at the memorial gathering.

Despite having polio since his childhood, Larry never saw anything as an obstacle; indeed he mastered the use of his wheelchair so he could participate in peace causes throughout the region. Many times I would see him, in his wheelchair, at lectures given at Chapman University's peace program in Orange. The most recent lecture where we met was mid-February this year, at the new UC Irvine Law School, which brought in former CIA officer Valerie Plame, whom Larry, after the lecture, sought to interrogate about nuclear proliferation. See picture.

Valerie Plame talks with Larry Howard, 17 February 2012 at UCI Law School. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2012

Doves fly over the 16 May 2012 gathering. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2012.
Key speakers at the memorial reception included long-time social sciences Dean Willie Schonfeld, now retired, as well as political scientist Cesar Sereseres. Several spoke of Larry's love of movies. I remember a recent encounter at a Regal theater where Larry explained to Eddie and me what "The Artist" really was about and what certain scenes meant. After the reception, I learned that one of Larry's final public activist moments was tabling outside Peet's Coffee across from the UCI campus, seeking signatures on a petition for himself to run for the Orange County Democratic Party executive board. As I walk out daily from the nearby Trader Joe's I half-expect to see Larry getting out of his hatchback.

A beautiful ending to the memorial reception was the release of three doves - apparently to signify peace. Set free, they seemed to linger over the gathering, before flying away. What a perfect way to represent Larry's spirit! - Daniel C. Tsang.

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