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Home > Howard Mahan - In memoriam
The USA Department of History mourns its colleague and founding Chair,
Dr. Howard F. Mahan who died at the age of 88 on Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Mobile
Howard F. Mahan
Howard F. Mahan
A native of New York City, Howard grew up in nearby New Jersey. He interrupted his undergraduate studies in science and engineering at Drew University to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. Following a full tour as a navigator on bombing missions over Europe, he returned to his studies at Drew University. As a result of his experiences, he decided to study history as a better way of understanding the war that he and the world had endured. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he continued graduate studies at Columbia University where he received his doctorate in U.S. history. In 1954, Howard came to Mobile as a faculty member at the University of Alabama Extension Division where he worked with the late Dr. Frederick P. Whiddon, USA’s first president, to help establish the University of South Alabama, and from 1963 until 1983, he served as Chair of the USA Department of History. After nearly 40 years of teaching U.S. history in Mobile, he retired in 1993 and remained a vibrant presence in the department for the next two decades.

Howard F. Mahan
Reflecting upon Mahan's career, Dr. Clarence Mohr, Professor and Chair of History at USA, notes that, "Howard left a rich and permanent legacy in the field of higher education.  His service in World War II gave him a keen appreciation of the need for an educated citizenry as the foundation of a democratic society.  As evidenced by his early and ongoing commitment to adult education, he believed that a university succeeds most fully when it defines itself as a community of learning in the broadest sense. Howard exemplified the spirit of inclusiveness that began with the G. I. Bill and took its most tangible form in the creation of new urban universities such as the University of South Alabama.  Howard's work touched the lives of the parents and grandparents of many of today's students. It is no exaggeration to say that he played a very significant part in the modern history of Mobile and the Gulf South. Howard Mahan was one of Alabama's true educational pioneers."

Howard F. Mahan
In 2001, the University of South Alabama Foundation and Dr. Whiddon generously established the Howard F. Mahan Lecture in honor of  Howard’s enduring contributions to his students, colleagues, community and state. Each year, a prominent scholar visits USA to deliver a major address on a timely topic. USA Foundation Managing Director, Maxey Roberts, says about Dr. Mahan:
Dr. Howard Mahan exuberantly gave to his profession, to the University of South Alabama, to the Department of History and to all fortunate to know him a singular life of intellectual integrity and service. Few are presented the opportunity to create an academic department and then to have the tenacity and work ethic to bring that vision to fruition. Howard was one of those who fearlessly established the framework for a solid academic milieu, and his foresight continues through the academic excellence of the Department, through the many students who he mentored, through the faculty he encouraged. The list never ends of the lives he shaped, directed and challenged intellectually.

For all of us, it is difficult to imagine a world without Howard Mahan. His courage, intellect and wry smile continue through the lives he transformed. Thank you, Howard!

Howard is survived by his wife, Dr. Betty Brandon, Professor Emerita of History at USA; three daughters, Melissa Mahan, Susan Mahan, and Deborah Phillips; and six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

The family plans a memorial service on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 6345 Old Shell Road, Mobile. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that remembrances be made to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile or the University of South Alabama Foundation.
Howard F. Mahan
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