John Howard is one of the “Greatest Generation of Americans” — those Americans who fought in World War II. When I talked with him, I did not learn that he served in a tank battalion of the First Infantry Division, nor did I learn that he had earned two silver stars and two purple hearts. Instead, he told me about coming home determined to speak out about the cost of freedom and the inextricable link between freedom and faith. Many veterans put the war behind them so that they could live quiet lives of devotion to work, community and family. Dr. Howard was committed to using “his career to sustain and strengthen America’s religious ideas, for which many of his friends had fought and died.”
Having honed his leadership skills in high school, and as a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton with a Ph.D. from Northwestern, Dr. Howard was thoroughly grounded in classical education. As President of Rockford College in Illinois for seventeen years, John Howard had a profound influence on students, but he recognized that many colleges and universities were slipping into mediocrity, so he served a three-year term as the National President of the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities so that he could influence higher education to embrace the religious ideals on which member institutions were founded.
Dr. Howard later turned his attention to the broader culture where the same sort of renewal was needed. His work resulted in the founding of The Howard Center on Family, Religion, and Society, which was named for him. He currently serves as Senior Fellow. Dr. Howard explained to me the importance of “understanding about the dominant influence of Christianity in the development of the American nation and the American society.” That influence, he said, “has been almost completely omitted in the history courses of the schools and colleges for more than six decades.”