To honor longtime educator Jeff “Howie” Howenstein, Boulder High School teachers are organizing a fundraiser to create a scholarship in his name.
Howenstein, who taught history at Boulder High for 25 years, died in November of a rare form of leukemia. He came to Boulder in 1981 to attend the University of Colorado and as a student taught at Boulder’s Fairview High. Before starting at Boulder High, he also taught at nearby Casey Middle School.
“Jeff has made such an incredible impact on all of his students and all of his colleagues,” Boulder High teacher Michelle Carpenter said. “He made everything fun — class, learning, homework, projects. He was so positive. His strength has been so inspirational.”
The scholarship fundraiser is from 1 to 6 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Wildflower Pavilion at Planet Bluegrass, 500 W Main St., Lyons. The registration deadline is Jan. 25. To register or to make a donation, go to bit.ly/3RMdgbq.
“Howiefest” will include a cash bar, snacks, games, music and a few silent auction items. Games include washer and cornhole tournaments, with prizes for the winners. The suggested minimum donation is $25.
The plan is to award the $1,000 scholarship, which will be overseen by Impact on Education, to a student in the AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, program. Howenstein taught AVID classes, which are aimed at first-generation college students, along with history at Boulder High.
Wendy Howenstein, his wife and a teacher in the St. Vrain Valley School District, said he “had a real heart” for AVID students.
“It’s a big deal to know the scholarship is going to go to those kids,” she said.
She said he loved teaching and only retired after he was diagnosed in 2017 so he could be treated at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston by a doctor who is an expert on mantle cell lymphoma.
He participated in clinical trials, including undergoing a splenectomy surgery previously not available to mantle cell patients. His experience with the surgery will help ensure more patients can benefit from the procedure, she said.
Friends organized multiple fundraisers to help with medical and travel expenses, creating “Team Howie” shirts, hosting concerts and holding silent auctions.
As the couple shuttled back and forth to Houston during the five-plus years of his illness, friends and family members helped care for their kids, house and pets. The couple has five children, including three who graduated from Boulder High. Four also attended the University of Colorado at Boulder.
“His community at Boulder High and our family and friends were unbelievable with helping us,” Wendy Howenstein said. “Everybody took care of the kids and took care of us.”
He was on the waitlist for a stem cell transplant when he died. In the summer, when his family announced he needed a transplant, people registered with BeTheMatch and posted on social media to urge others to register. All their children also registered in case they were a match. One, his stepson Henry Anderson, matched with a stranger.
Six weeks after his dad died, Anderson donated his stem cells.
“There are a lot of people waiting for stem cells and for transplants,” Wendy Howenstein said. “Henry went through it to honor Jeff and save someone’s life.”
She kept people updated through a blog on the CaringBridge site, saying the many messages posted on the site from former students and colleague raised his spirits during the grueling treatments.
She said he wanted his students to know that everyone has a story and always encouraged them to “write their own.”
“As teachers, you usually don’t know whose life you impacted,” she said. “So many students told him his history class really changed how they looked at the world. He changed a lot of kids and how they saw the possibilities available to them.”