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‘Passionate, tenacious, and generous’ Dr. Vivian Howard retires

Posted by Kim Humes on May 17, 2024 in News

After 30 years in the classroom, Dr. Vivian Howard thinks she’s taught her final course — and it was extra special. Anna Jacquart, her daughter, was a student in that final class. Anna was born in 1994 when her mother was completing the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS). It seems fitting that Dr. Howard, who recently retired, share her passion with her daughter as she works toward the same degree.

After moving to Halifax in the early 1990s so her husband could take a position at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), Dr. Howard wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. A friend had completed a Master of Library Science at the University of British Columbia and she liked the idea of a flexible, professional designation that built on her experience.

It was an exciting time to be studying library science, she explains. Computers were new and discussions about the internet were just beginning. “I knew these were going to be big things. Things that were going to shift how we learn and navigate in the world,” says Dr. Howard.

‘The Meryl Streep of professors’

After graduation, Dr. Howard worked as a librarian at NSCAD and the Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS) and, in 1996, Dr. Bertrum MacDonald reached out. Then Director of the School of Information Management (SIM), Dr. MacDonald invited her to teach a course in Information Sources in the Humanities and Social Sciences. As she explains, “I was learning at the same time [the students] were learning. It was a real pleasure.”

“Vivian stood out in her very first class, and quickly demonstrated both academic prowess and a suite of management capabilities,” says Dr. MacDonald, now a professor emeritus in the faculty. “Her thoughtful, caring, outgoing personality is an important factor in her numerous successes as a teacher and colleague.”

Her students agree. “The teaching and research of Dr. Howard is what first drew me as a student to the MLIS and she is among the top reasons I remain here,” says Alison Brown, an instructor in the Department of Information Science, and an Interdisciplinary PhD candidate. “Our cohort referred to Vivian as ‘the Meryl Streep of professors’ — fiercely bright, unflappable, versatile, unwaveringly committed, graceful, and elegant. I have had the enormous privilege of learning from Vivian as her student, supervisee, mentee, colleague, and friend.”

An extraordinary mentor, and trusted by colleagues

Eventually, Dr. Howard performed administrative roles within the university, serving as program administrator and academic director of the Bachelor of Management (BMgmt), associate dean (academic) and interim dean for the Faculty of Management, associate vice-president academic for Dalhousie, and SIM acting director. While overseeing the BMgmt program, she led the project to develop the majors. “The project required me to talk to people in all units about their vision, people I didn’t know,” says Dr. Howard. “I liked the problem-solving aspect, applying concrete solutions to real issues.” It is an accomplishment she is proud of.

Pictured right: Vivian, her mother, Beryl, and daughter Anna

“One of the most fun periods of my career was working as a co-dean of the Faculty of Management with Vivian,” says Dr. Kim Brooks. “She was an extraordinary mentor and has become a friend. Vivian cares enormously, has amazing attention to detail, and has brought that attention to everything from the smooth functioning of Dalhousie during COVID to a class discussion. And she knows how to make things fun.”

“I think Vivian was successful in advancing so many projects because of her patient and good-hearted tenacity,” says Dr. Mike Smit (acting dean, Faculty of Management). “She brings genuine warmth to everything she does and has played so many key roles in the faculty and across the university, because she's widely trusted and appreciated by everyone who had the chance to work with her.”

“Vivian has enriched all our lives”

A prolific researcher, Dr. Howard is an authority on children’s and young adult (YA) literature. She is the editor of YA Hotline, the oldest YA-focused newsletter in the world (started in the 1970s). She says, “there was talk of YA being over for a time, but we’re seeing a resurgence. It is a varied field. The themes are universal and the topics serious.” She cites children’s and YA materials as “ground zero” for the incredible rise in censorship issues in recent years. She knows library professionals will tackle these challenges. “We talked about this in class — who do you not see coming into the library, and why is it critical to connect with them?” She says, “this is fundamental to the job.”

Dr. Howard does not plan to slow down yet. She is looking forward to travelling to Italy, Croatia, Norway, Scotland, Iceland, and Greenland. At home, she plans on gardening, walking her dog, and doing needlepoint.

Dr. Louise Spiteri (professor, Department of Information Science, and chair of Dalhousie's Senate) summarizes Dr. Howard’s legacy in these words: "In the many years during which I've had the pleasure to work with Vivian, I've observed her passion for teaching, her dedication to her students and their learning experiences, and her absolute commitment to the department and the university. I've always admired her good nature, her wicked sense of humour, the ever-present twinkle in her eyes, her huge smile, and her generosity and kindness towards everyone she meets. Vivian has enriched all our lives."

Please join the celebration of Dr. Howard on May 30 in the Rowe Building. Luncheon festivities will be between 1:00 and 2:00 pm. Kindly RSVP to by May 25.

Son-in-law Matthew, daughter Anna, Vivian and her husband, David