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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 9 | July 4, 2002

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 staff.

"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.

more information

The Campus Mail Service's new web site (www.campusmail.ubc.ca) lists campus postal codes, international postal codes, services and policies.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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