Tuesday with Howie: UPIKE campus celebrates beloved professor

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 7:18 PM EDT
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Dr. John Howie spent 30 years at the University of Pikeville teaching students the science of psychology. But, among the things his students have learned over the years, Howie believes the ability to discover themselves is the most important.

“Some of them start to heal from some of their old wounds and you’re like, ‘oh well that’s good. I must be doing something right,’” Howie laughed. “I don’t know how that happened. But it works.”

During those discoveries, the now-retired professor created relationships with his students and colleagues that he considers to be of the universe’s design. Whether kismet or karma, he said being a small part of the journeys each student takes is a blessing in itself.

“I don’t know whether you’ve been connected with them for several lifetimes or it just happens to be a connection you made. It doesn’t really matter,” he said. “You have that connection.”

Now, he is on another journey of his own. Dr. Howie was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, a diagnosis that he says might have been missed had he not been injured in an unrelated incident.

“They noticed that there was something wrong with the lung over here. The upper lobe of this lung was evidently ridden with cancer.”

After a semester of Zoom courses, Howie stepped away from his classes. However, he hosted a final lecture of sorts during the UPIKE convocation Tuesday, as Chaplain Rob Musick interviewed him about his life and career.

The lecture, attended by former students and colleagues, and streamed on Facebook live, allowed the campus to celebrate someone many have called the university’s most unique professor.

“Like he was explaining earlier, it’s okay to go with the flow,” said former student Darrell Riffe. “And just because things aren’t working out doesn’t mean that you can’t have a more amazing experience.”

That attitude brought students into Howie’s classes even before they knew what the courses were about. Something students like Natasha Newsom said was an important decision.

“I stuck with Howie. He was my mentor, he was my advisor, and now I’m halfway through a industrial-organizational psychology master’s and would love to follow in his footsteps,” said Newsom.

Newsom wasn’t alone in her admiration.

“Just his passion and his excitement for life and the students and how much he genuinely cared- it kind of sucked me in,” said former student Jessica Campbell. “And I was like, ‘Okay. this is something that I want to do.’”

The students who came to hear him speak said he was instrumental in each of their journeys and they wanted to hear how he is fairing on the journey with cancer. And, though the students maintain that Howie taught them more than he will ever know, he said they taught him just as much.

Now, as he continues his third round of chemotherapy treatments, he said the only thing to do is move forward, believing his life has been everything he could make it.

“I’m still not dead yet. This is the number one good thing. I have good days and bad days. You get real philosophical about it; you can’t really get uptight,’” he said. “And I felt like I’ve lived what I should’ve done.”

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