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Jane and Joe Howell“Life is more than what you do for a living.”

Throughout the years, Jane & Joe Howell, members of the Montana State University Billings campus community, have changed thousands of lives by embracing this rule for living their lives. They have reached out, stepping far beyond the call of duty, immersing themselves in a variety of important causes, both on and off campus.

The Howells moved to Billings in 1980 when Joe began teaching in the Eastern Montana College Math Department.  Jane began working in the campus library in 1982.  Joe, who holds a PhD in math from the University of Denver earned his Bachelor’s in math and philosophy from the University of Bristol in England and was Chair of the Math Department from 1984 until his retirement in 2008, taking two years off to serve as the acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. A native Brit, Jane received her Master’s in Library Science from the University of Denver and her Bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of Leeds in England and was the Director of Library Services at MSU-Billings from 1990 until her retirement in 2010.

The impact this energetic, determined pair have made on campus is immeasurable. The MSU Billings Foundation’s Wine and Food Festival and Annual Drive for Excellence would not be what they are today without the contributions of time and talent the Howells have made year after year. The Foundation’s Wine and Food Festival has netted almost $4 million since its inception in 1993.  The Howells have been deeply involved with the Festival since its early days, and have helped it grow into the spectacular event it is today. Jane conceived and managed the publication of the festival’s 15th Anniversary Cookbook in 2007. Jane and Joe chaired the Festival’s Wine Store from 2001-2005, and served as Wine & Food Festival co-chairs in 2007 and 2008.  For the past four years, Joe has chaired the festival’s live auction committee. The Howell’s dedication to giving back to their University also extends to the Annual Drive for Excellence. Both Jane and Joe served for more than 10 years as Annual Drive volunteers. Jane chaired the Combined Campus Campaign for six years and volunteered many hours raising funds for the MSU Billings Foundation: serving on the foundation board and fiscal affairs committee.

Jane was especially proud of her work to develop the Library Excellence Fund. This endowed fund was established to provide a perpetual source of financial support for the library. Through her work with individual donors and many fund raisers, the Library Excellence Endowment totals $1.2 million.  In recent years, this endowment has helped mitigate the lack of appropriate levels of state funding for university libraries.  Some would say a library is the heart of the campus, the place where all students pursue knowledge, conduct research, and grow intellectually.  Those who knew Jane Howell will tell you she was the soul of the library at Montana State University-Billings. 

Joe and Jane have not limited their involvement to activities on campus. Their community service is equally impressive. Joe has been involved in Math Counts, a program in local middle schools to advance skills in and foster appreciation for mathematics. Jane was a member of the American Association of University Women, and served as Vice-President for the ACLU in Montana, represented Montana at the American Library Association, and supported KEMC public Radio. They have both been active in politics and have given their time and talents to support education issues.

Believing in supporting the organization they worked for and the community they live in, and in addition to many other generous contributions to the university, the Howells established a $40,000 charitable remainder unitrust to benefit the Library and the Math Department.

Joe and Jane Howell’s belief in the promise of education and the devotion they have demonstrated has helped to ensure quality educational opportunities at Montana State University Billings.  

Sadly, on May 28, 2012, Jane passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. Jane’s commitment to the students of Montana State University Billings continues through the Jane Howell Memorial Scholarship established by her family.


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