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CSULB Through And Through, Howard Named Employee Of The Month

Published: April 16, 2012

Irene Howard, an administrative coordinator for the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was chosen recently by her colleagues in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics to be employee of the month.

The 1977 alumna daughter, sibling, aunt, wife and mother of CSULB graduates, was recognized in a special ceremony held recently near the University Student Union on Friendship Walk which was renamed Irene Howard Lane for the month.

CSULB President F. King Alexander praised Howard for doing a superb job working with staff, faculty members and students. “Irene meets every goal and treats everyone with equanimity and with a great personality that makes working with her a rewarding experience,” he said.

Howard was pleased to be named employee of the month. “I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart to have been named employee of the month,” she said. “All of the staff I work with should receive such an honor because they all play a special role and each one is needed equally. I look forward to coming to work each day because I can be with such kind and giving staff. The administrators in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics are also wonderful to work with. They have great vision and high goals for our college.”

Howard especially wanted to thank the Science Shop staff who spent hour after hour enhancing the new Hall of Science, moving and building equipment for the new offices and labs. “I’d also like to thank the Physics Issue Room staff for all of their support over the years,” she said. “Additionally, my gratitude goes out to the SAS Center (Student Access to Science) which provides student service programs and resources including a computer lab, free tutoring and advising.

“We are also fortunate to have very dedicated staff in the Science Safety Office,” she added. “They see to it that the students, faculty and staff follow the safety guidelines and maintain a safe working environment. This has truly been a blessed year for the Department of Physics and Astronomy.” She greatly enjoys its new home in the Hall of Science. “It is such a blessing,” she said. “There is a window with a beautiful view right by my desk. An average day will bring such challenges as faculty members bringing in something they need to order in an emergency. Something has broken or worn out. It is up to me to type the requisitions using the appropriate funds for these items. Due to bond money, we have been able to upgrade the labs with new equipment and new lab stools.”

Howard earned a B.A. at CSULB in 1977 in English (creative writing) before beginning 34 years working in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. When she was a child, she often visited the campus with her father, Alexander Lipski, a professor first in the History Department and then in religious studies from 1958 until his retirement in 1984. He also started the Asian Studies Department. Both of her parents earned their degrees at UC Berkeley and her mother, Ruth Maria Lipski, received her school psychologist’s credential at CSULB in 1966. Howard worked four years as a University Library student assistant while earning her degree. She met her husband, George Conrad Howard (B.A. in history and German and a social science credential in 1979) and their daughter, Sarah Rebecca Howard, earned a certificate in Japanese language as well as degrees in art history, travel, tourism and hospitality management at CSULB. Howard’s two sisters, Beatrice and Sophia, also earned their degrees at CSULB, as did her niece, Emily Hogan.

Howard loves the CSULB campus and treasures its beautiful landscape and soft ocean breezes.

“I continue to be impressed by how much the university’s gardeners contribute to this campus,” she said. “They do a great job. The lawns always look perfect and so do the flower beds. And I’m pleased with the new Science Learning Center, the new Marine Lab, and the fact that we have telescopes on the roof of our building for the Astronomy 100 Lab students to use on specific viewing nights. They’ve added a lot since I was a student.”

As the administrative coordinator in her department, her duties include processing hiring papers for lecturers and teaching assistants, ordering all lab and office equipment, entering the class schedules into the computer, ordering textbooks, processing travel papers and assisting the department chair and faculty with a variety of tasks.

Irene Howard Employee of the month
Irene Howard (l) with President F. King Alexander

“I have been very fortunate to have such wonderful chairmen and faculty to work with. Our chairs work especially hard,” she said. “Hard work is contagious like a smile. And the faculty members do so much research and spend a great deal of time on class preparation; they are real go-getters.”

“I’ve made friends at work that have become life-long friends and I cherish each and every one of them,” she added. “I feel very grateful to have hardworking and cheerful work study students. All of them are angels and I feel so fortunate to have their help.”

Howard’s skill set includes dealing with personal emergencies as well as campus ones. “After all, my daughter went here and I went here,” she said. “When students come to me with their emergencies, I just try to think back about what I felt in a similar situation. I try to help worried students see the bright side and sometimes I succeed well enough to get a card from them. I just try to climb every mountain like the song in `The Sound of Music.’”

Howard believes in the power of education. “It is like a gift and something to be treasured,” she said. “To learn is to reach for the stars. Nobody ought to be denied a chance at an education. What a great place this is for helping people find their places in life. Coming here gives you a goal. You can be your own role model. “

When she isn’t saving her department, Howard also sees to it that there are some social activities such as holiday parties. Recently, fellow physics and astronomy staff and students won first place in a skit about the classic film “Amadeus” which they performed for the 2011 CSULB Halloween Spooktacular. This May, Howard will work with the Staff Council Special Events Committee to host the well-loved CSULB Rose Show.

Howard is glad she made the choice to join CSULB and she encourages others to think about doing the same. “This is a great school and I like it just the way it is,” she said. “The students feel comfortable here because they receive the personal touch. And they are close to the beach. It is the perfect location. It is a friendly place where everybody loves going to. They are glad they made the choice to attend school here. In 34 years, I’ve seen a lot of visitors to this campus returning to chat to their teachers and say how glad they are to see all the good changes. Things keep getting better here. I feel a lot of progress.”

Howard received several gifts with her distinction including a CSULB sweatshirt, a $50 gift card for Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, a $5 gift card for in-N-Out, a $5 gift card for Starbucks and a coupon for one free Whopper at Burger King.

–Richard Manly