John Howarth (Obituary)

John Howarth & Faith Gabelnick outside of Marsh Hall in 2002.

Dr. John Howarth, husband of the late University President Faith Gablenick, passed away Feb. 21.

Born near Bolton England in 1924, he was the first person in his village to attend a university; his sister Jean was the second. He studied physics at Cambridge University, earning a master’s degree, then completed a Ph.D. in 1963 at the University of London.

He was then invited to New Mexico to work as a radiological physicist at the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque. In 1964, he joined the physics department at the University of New Mexico and was appointed director of the university’s general honors program in 1971. He moved to the University of Maryland in 1978, continuing as a physics professor and honors program director.

Dr. Howarth spoke of New Mexico as his  “spiritual home,” but the career of his wife, Dr. Gablenick, led the couple to many adventures. They lived in Kalamazoo, Mich., Oakland, Calif. and finally Forest Grove. He contributed to academic and local communities wherever he lived, including serving as a volunteer mediator at the Washington County, Ore., courthouse and supporting causes such as local public radio stations, the Oregon Cultural Trust and the I Have a Dream Foundation.

He spent the last years of his life in Forest Grove, pursuing his passions for photography, painting and social justice. His 2008 book of photographs, I and I: Ironies and Idiosyncrasies in Everyday Life, portrayed his fascination with the accidental visual and textual humor people see all around them, but rarely appreciate.