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George Thomas Howard ’51

George Thomas Howard ’51, July 7, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada. George grew up in and around theatres, from the time his mother performed violin in an orchestra, and joined the stagehand’s union as a teenager, which allowed him to earn his way through college. He received a combined degree in physics and electrical engineering from Reed and MIT and an MS in electrical engineering from MIT. Prior to leaving Portland for MIT, George helped found Hollywood Lights, renting lighting equipment, including army surplus searchlights, and participating in the rescue efforts when Vanport was flooded; Hollywood Lights continues in business in Portland and Seattle today. After MIT, George worked for General Electric for five years, including work in their long term planning group. He returned to work in the stage lighting arena when he became the executive vice president for Kliegl Brothers’ western division in Los Angeles in 1967. George was a registered professional engineer in 17 states and developed a unique specialty, providing expertise in all areas of theatre and showroom design. He created the firm George Thomas Howard & Associates, a leading consultant for theatrical and presentation facilities for over three decades, with special expertise in theatre and showroom design. One of his first major consulting projects was the design of the lighting system for the 1959 renovation of the Elizabethan Theatre of the Oregon Shakespearean Festival. In his own words, “I spent a substantial amount of time in Ashland each summer for the following 15 years, working with Dick Hay and Bill Patton on changes to the Elizabethan Theatre and consulting on the design of the Angus Bowmer Theatre . . . I have had a long and diverse career as a theatre consultant. My projects have ranged, and continued to range, from high school auditoria to multivenue metropolitan performing arts centers, and include just about every type of theatre, media production, and public assembly facility.” George loved travel and was a hands-on consultant. His firm managed projects for an incredible list of theatres and showrooms in the U.S. and as far away as Australia. Clients included the Grand Ole Opry, the Hollywood Bowl, the MGM Grand Hotel, Caesar’s Palace, the World Trade Center in Moscow, and the Seattle Opera House. He was a fellow of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), and a member of the American Consulting Engineers Council, the American Society of Theatre Consultants, and numerous other theatre and engineering societies. Fellow USITT member Joel Rubin, who worked with George at Kliegl Brothers for six years in the ’60s, said that he was one of the single best “red-liners” of working drawings he had ever met. “He coupled this with a unique ability to read print upside down and backward and to ‘red-line’ that way from his side of the table. This ability was also usefully employed in reading notes from across the table while negotiating contracts.” George had a photographic memory and never filed a single piece of paper, yet always knew where a document could be found. He was brilliant, innovative, and driven by his work, and is remembered as a phenomenal mentor and a good friend. Son Christopher, who provided many details for this memorial piece, wrote, “He taught us all about how to do a good job and how to earn respect. Our parents both shared their love of education and culture with their children as they raised us. They supported us in whatever direction we wanted to go, as long it was understood we would go to college. He left us with a great legacy in that regard, much as he has left the world with many great theaters by which we may remember him and his work. He is missed.” George is survived by his wife, Karen Holm Howard ’51; his son; and his daughter, Tamara. A second son predeceased him. The family requests memorial gifts be made to Reed in George’s name.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2011

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