Jack R. Howard '28 Bequeaths $11 Million
to PEA's H. Hamilton Bissell '29 Scholarship Fund

In the fall of 1924, Jack Howard ’28 left behind the cosmopolitan world of New York City, overseas travel, and his father’s international newspaper business, the Scripps Howard Company, to join the PEA community. In Exeter, Principal Lewis Perry was at the helm. Fraternities dominated student social life, many boys still roomed in boarding houses, and the Harkness Plan had yet to be conceived.

Yet one aspect of Academy life was the same then as it is today: the talent and ambition of the student body. Jack Howard had joined an academic meritocracy whose challenge was clear: achieve your best. As it did with so many Exonians, this credo left its mark on Jack.

“Exeter was a defining experience for my father,” says Michael Balfe Howard, himself an Exeter graduate of 1960. “His upbringing was privileged and intellectually stimulating, but one without many of the rigors of competition. At Exeter, he found other students who were striving to do as well as he was striving. In the process, he learned not to confuse a failure with final defeat. He also learned the depth of the bonds of kinship that can exist between men. That’s how he lived his life, and Exeter was the bedrock foundation.”

While at Exeter, Jack participated in extracurricular activities such as the Golden Branch Literary Society and the Outing Club. Demonstrating a family knack for the newspaper business, Jack served as business manager of The Exonian; he also managed the swim team and was coxswain for Exeter’s first four in crew.

It was through the PEA crew team that Jack first met H. Hamilton Bissell ’29. A year younger, Hammy was coming up through the rowing ranks; when Jack grew too big, Hammy eventually took his place as cox of the first four. Although neither young man knew it at the time, it was the beginning of a friendship that would later help revolutionize Exeter’s scholarship program.

After graduation from Exeter, Jack went on to Yale, where he worked for the Yale Daily News, and then to various posts with Scripps Howard newspapers. He began to make his own mark on the company in 1935, when he effected Scripps Howard’s first purchase of a radio station, WCPO in Cincinnati. Two years later, Jack became president of the fledgling Scripps Howard Broadcasting Company. In 1953, he succeeded his father as president of E. W. Scripps, the holding company for the newspaper, broadcast, and syndication subsidiaries.

During these years, Jack also found ways to be of service to Exeter. Beginning with his presidency of the Exeter Association of Greater New York, Jack shouldered every possible volunteer role, including class president, president of the General Alumni Association, and Academy trustee. His work for Exeter spanned four decades, and in 1991 the Academy honored his sustained, outstanding service with a Founder’s Day Award.

One of Jack’s greatest contributions to Exeter was sparked by a chance reunion with Hammy Bissell in Washington D.C. in 1950. Having returned to the Academy as an English instructor in 1933, Hammy was now director of scholarship boys, charged by Princi-pal Bill Saltonstall with helping Exeter become a fully national high school.

Hammy was on a nation-wide search for “the men and women behind the boys”: adults who could help him reach top candidates for admission, specifically boys who were “long on brains and short on cash.” Newspaper circulation managers were proving to be an excellent source: they knew hundreds of responsible, energetic boys serving as newspaper carriers around the country. In fact, Hammy had already met with a few circulation managers from Scripps Howard papers.

Jack Howard was excited about Hammy’s recruiting efforts and offered further assistance. He suggested that Hammy join him and other managers from Scripps Howard on their annual “budget tour” of Scripps Howard newspapers. From 1950 to 1960, Hammy spent several weeks each year traveling aboard the Scripps Howard plane, bringing the word about Exeter scholarships to Scripps Howard newspaper boys and circulation managers, while Jack and his team reviewed the newspapers’ budgets.

“My father was one of those persons who through-out his life wanted to be of service,” explains Howard. “He always made himself available to others. He felt the opportunities provided at Exeter set the stage for further opportunities later in life, and he wanted to offer students the chance to achieve what he had gained from an Exeter education.”

Throughout his life, the Academy was never far from Jack Howard’s mind. Exeter was family: in addition to son Michael, his granddaughters, Eliza and Esme had graduated from the Academy in 1988 and 1990. His 1991 Founder’s Day remarks expressed it this way: “The members of my family comprising three generations of Exonians... may say more about what Exeter has meant to me than anything else.”

When Jack passed away in 1998, he left a bequest of $11 million to be added to the H. Hamilton Bissell ’29 Scholarship Fund established by several Exonians in 1975. Jack’s bequest commemorates his unique partnership with Hammy Bissell and completes the $40 million scholarship initiative begun in 1994 to increase scholarship endowment for middle income students. His overwhelming generosity will help to sustain the quality of Exeter’s student body, allowing the Academy to accept top candidates for admission regardless of their financial means.

“I think my father would have a great deal of faith in the students of today,” says Howard. “He would hope that they might find the same joy in life that he did, and that many of them would give something back to the Academy. I think if he had any message for generations of Exonians beyond his own, it would have been the adage, ‘It is only by giving that you actually receive.’ ”

Jack Howard himself lived by these words. For his generosity that will reach future Exeter students from every quarter, the Academy is deeply grateful.

Jack Howard himself lived by these words. For his generosity that will reach future Exeter students from every quarter, the Academy is deeply grateful.