Helen Howard Graduate Student Reading Room sign, with an smalled hedshot of Helen from the Tricolour Yearbook.

Being the change in her community

Helen Arlene Howard knew what it meant to be both a distinguished librarian and a radical change agent in her community. 

Howard, who passed away on Sept. 6 one day away from her 95th birthday, was born Helen Arlene Creighton in Kingston, Ont., in 1927 and entered Queen’s University as a member of the class of 1949. 

As a student, she was active in campus society serving on the Arts’49 executive and on the Levana Society Council, an organization founded in 1889 to "promote the general interest of women at Queen’s.” 

After graduation, she enrolled in McGill University, eventually graduating with a Masters in Library Science. Her career took her to posts at McGill, the University of Toronto, and the National Library in Ottawa. She also earned a PhD from Rutgers University. Throughout her career, she never forgot her roots in Kingston and at Queen’s.

She made her first donation to Queen’s University in 1990 — a contribution of $50. 

But that was just a beginning for Dr. Howard. Her ongoing generosity placed her in the university’s 1841 Circle and in the Royal Legacy Society. Her contributions buttress the future of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the school’s library and music programs – all promoting education and community building, especially to help less-advantaged individuals experience the joy of learning through music.

Her generosity established funds including the Helen A. Howard Bassoon Scholarship in the Dan School of Music (2008), the Helen Howard Music Coaching Fund (2010), The Helen Howard Music Education and Community Fund (2013), the Helen Howard Library Enhancement Fund, which lead to the Helen Howard Graduate Students Reading Room (2017), and supported the Queen’s Community Music — Sistema Kingston Fund. 

“Helen’s additional support for Queen’s Community Music and Sistema Kingston has allowed students of all ages to experience the joy that music learning and engagement brings. I am particularly grateful for her support of Sistema Kingston, and the access to music that it provides for underserved children in our community,” said Karma Tomm, who is the Chamber Music Co-ordinator, Dan School of Drama and Music and the Director, Queen’s Community Music and Sistema Kingston.

“With Helen’s support, we are able to provide space for both quiet study and collaboration to foster student success. We are so thankful for her support of the student learning experience and her enduring interest in libraries,” Martha Whitehead, Vice-Provost (Digital Planning) and University Librarian, said about the establishment of the reading room, which doubled the available study space for graduate students at Queen’s.

Her giving certainly seems to understand the power of music to raise young people out of disadvantaged circumstances and provide them with new opportunities for more fully rounded lives.

This is especially true for her support of the Queen’s Community Music — Sistema Kingston Fund. Sistema is modelled on the ground-breaking program in Venezuela founded in 1975 by Jose Antonio Abreu.

Queen’s is grateful for the support and kindness that Helen has showed the institution throughout her life.