Burgwell Howard, or Burgie, as he is better known, has a lot of kids—about 8,000 of them.
But that’s what happens when you’re in charge of student engagement at Northwestern University. That, and you wear an awful lot of purple.
Howard and his wife Jennifer Richeson, NU Psychology Professor and holder of the MacArthur- endowed chair in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, have lived in Evanston since 2005. They met in Hanover, NH when he was visiting college friends. Richeson was an assistant professor at Dartmouth, and he was assistant Dean of Students at Bowdoin. So they know about long-distance relationships. Moving here, Howard laughs, was “a chance for us to be in the same ZIP code, working at the same school for once.”
Now, happily ensconced in a lovely home with their frisky yellow Lab, Achilles, Howard shares his philosophy about being an integral part of the community you live in. “NU is all consuming, but a big part of my job is getting students to engage in their community as best they can. It’s easy for university folks to simply pay rent in a community, particularly if you don’t have kids in the school system. It’s easy to be in your disconnected little world. But it’s harder to hide in a small community. Taking part in it is important.”
Howard follows his own advice. He serves actively on the board of the Evanston Community Foundation, and in his spare time, he volunteer-referees youth lacrosse games throughout the North Shore. You might catch him at Evanston Township, New Trier, Lake Forest or Loyola high-school games, running down the field with the action.
For the students of NU, learning happens in the classroom, but also outside of it. “NU students have a strong sense of social justice, which plays well in this community. They are active in social services, donating their time, doing internships. They have an economic impact. They need to participate, and we encourage it.”
So you can see why we love Burgie. He helps his students and his community by bringing them together, creating opportunities for both to succeed and prosper. He might bleed green—he is a Dartmouth graduate, after all—but now, Burgie Howard is truly devoted to the color purple.
Who are the other men we love? Find out here!
Photo by Britt Anderson