UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 9 | July
John Howe Puts His Stamp on Four Decades of Service
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor student rallies could slow this mailman.
By Helen Lewis
John Howe has worked on campus for twice as long as most UBC freshmen
have been alive.
He was at UBC when JFK was assassinated, when Armstrong walked
on the moon, when Trudeau was elected and when the Berlin Wall fell.
And as the world moves faster, as employees scramble for "better
offers" and job loyalty nears extinction, UBC's veteran Campus
Mail Service manager has found lasting rewards in staying put.
"I love being part of an organization that's grown from a
small university to a world-renowned research institute, and watching
that happen," he says. "It's good to be a part of it,
and it's getting better all the time."
Howe was just 12 when he had his first job on campus, delivering
copies of UBC Reports at UBC sporting events in the 1950's. He and
his brother spent Saturday mornings putting hundreds of copies of
the newspaper on car windshields during football and basketball
games. Their delivery run complete, the boys would join their father
Sid, a UBC custodian, helping to operate the football scoreboard.
Howe followed in his father's footsteps, joining the ranks of UBC
staff with a job at the bookstore in 1962. The pair drove to work
together until Sid Howe retired in 1973.
In 1965, aged 18, Howe became a sorter in the mail room and in
1967 he started driving the campus' only mail truck -- a little
red 1952 Chevy. He was a mail delivery driver until his appointment
as campus mail supervisor in 1991.
UBC's mail delivery system was vastly different when Howe joined
"The janitors used to pick up the mail in the morning on the
way to work, and deliver it," he recalls. "There were
about 20 of them delivering around two million pieces of mail a
year to 57 departments."
These days, Howe supervises seven mail sorters and five delivery
people. With four one-tonne trucks and one courier van, they distribute
about 6.5 million pieces of mail per year to about 280 departments
and satellites on a budget of $450,000.
Surprisingly, Howe says, the meteoric rise of e-mail hasn't affected
the volume of mail needing to be delivered. "I thought it would,"
he admits, "but despite having e-mail, everybody wants hard
copies as well."
Surrounded by students and teachers for the best part of five decades,
Howe never harboured a yearning for the academic life. He has taken
continuing education courses for management and computers, but "I've
always just wanted to work here," he says.
In 1990 he got a taste of congregation excitement, attending a
graduation ceremony as one of just 75 people to receive a 75th Anniversary
Medal for service to the university.
As the campus has grown, Howe has guided the Mail Service through
changes to meet the needs of a burgeoning university population
and the ever-increasing pace of business. Throughout, he has taken
pleasure in the day-to-day challenges of the job and in the company
of his coworkers.
"Meeting people has been a great part of this job. I guess
I've stayed on so long because of the job security and because the
people are so good to work with. I have a great team," he says.
"It used to be more personal -- you'd get out and meet everybody
and give personal service way back when. Now it's e-mail and phone."
But Howe is philosophical about this change, as he is about all
the others he's seen and he's not ready to retire just yet.
"You've got to grow with the times," he says.
The Campus Mail Service's new web site (www.campusmail.ubc.ca)
lists campus postal codes, international postal codes, services