Aug. 15, 2023
Roscoe C. Howard Jr. ’70 says he stays engaged with Culver Academies after all these years because it has a Hogwarts-like magic that pulls alumni together, even those who have never met.
“Culver is a shared experience like no other. It’s just the level of the academic curriculum there. It opens opportunities,” Howard said. “You’re there and you see everybody growing. You’re in a special place during a special time in your life.”
So special that when he told his sons about the boarding school along Lake Maxinkuckee in northern Indiana as they were growing up, they would joke that he was making it up and compared it to Hogwarts, the school for magic in the Harry Potter books and movies. They couldn’t believe such a school existed.
“Some of it feels like magic,” he said.
Howard served on the Culver Education Foundation Board of Trustees from 1989-1997, he was vice president of the Culver Legion from 1978-1982, and was named Graduate of the Year in 2003. He also serves as president of his class.
Howard not only gives of his time, he also supports Culver financially, calling donations from alumni the school’s “lifeblood.” His name is among those listed who helped fund last year’s Eagle Stadium renovation.
“Culver needs donations to continue to remain a top program,” he said. “You do it to maintain your bond throughout the rest of your life. One of the reasons I gave to the stadium project is because it was nice to have my name on the wall with other guys who I played with while I was there.”
He believes Culver played a key role in his success. He has a Culver tag attached to his briefcase so everyone knows his affiliation.
Howard received a bachelor's degree in American Civilization from Brown University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. He’s had a tremendously successful law career.
He’s worked at law firms and taught law at the University of Kansas. He served as the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., the nation’s largest U.S. Attorney’s Office, from 2001-2004. He is now the office managing partner for Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Washington, D.C., office.
Howard said his parents, who both were college professors, thought as an African-American living in the South in the 1960s that his education was suffering. He lived in Ettrick, Virginia, about 25 miles south of Richmond, and attended segregated schools until middle school. His mother had attended graduate school at the University of Virginia with a man who had taught at Culver and recommended the school. He enrolled without ever setting foot on campus. His sister went to a prep school in New England.
“My parents were just trying to get us in better situations,” Howard said. “Culver was trying to find African-American students and things just kind of came together.”
Howard enrolled as a third classman in September 1967, when Alexander Williams IV, Culver Military Academy’s first black graduate, was a first classman.
“I had no connection to the school. I had no connection to Indiana. I had never been off the East Coast in my life. When I arrived, I was 15 years old. I knew nobody at the school,” he said.
Howard quickly fit in and developed lifelong friendships. He said he will run into a classmate he hasn’t seen in years, and they will start reminiscing. He recalls getting a call about 30 years ago from Jim Green ’70 in a case where Howard was the prosecutor and Green was the defense attorney. They hadn’t spoken since graduation.
“He calls and says, ‘Is this Roscoe Howard?’ I say, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘From Culver?’ I say yeah.’ He says this is Jim Green,’ ” Howard said. “I bet we talked for about 90 minutes. I hung up and realized we never talked about the case. I had to call him back.”
He has numerous people with whom he attended Culver that he has kept in touch with, including Bud Hornbeck ’71, Todd Parchman ’72, Jim Gault ’70, and Tim Quigley ’71. A group of Culver graduates living in the Washington area used to get together periodically for lunch before the pandemic.
He also fondly remembers some pranks he committed while at Culver.
“We come back after 50 years and we’re still talking about the pranks from 1969 and ’70,” he said. “That gives you a lot of pride with your classmates. We got together, we came up with a plan, we executed it and we never got caught.”
While he was a student at Culver, Howard developed a close relationship with Dean John Mars, chairman of the language department who later was Culver superintendent from 1976-82. Mars recommended Howard take a look at Brown University, from where he graduated in 1941 and played football and baseball and later became a member of the school’s athletics hall of fame.
“He was one of the first people to say, ‘Hey, that’s a school you ought to look at,’ ” Howard said.
Howard said Culver engenders a special camaraderie.
“Culver just has this special bond that a lot of other high schools and prep schools just don’t have,” he said.
Howard witnessed that firsthand when his brother Rod Howard ’73 died unexpectedly at age 46 in 2002. He was overwhelmed when he saw how many Culver graduates flew in from around the country to attend the funeral in Virginia.
“It was meaningful for his family and real meaningful for me,” he said.
Howard believes what makes Culver so special is the people it brings together from around the world who are all eager to be at the top of their classes.
“Culver will let you test your limits. They will let you figure out what you’re capable of. They have faculty who are available to you. They have courses that push you. And the students are really impressive. So, you are in classes with students who have the same academic vigor as you. It gives you a chance to see where you fit among everybody else,” he said. “Everybody wanted to be No. 1, and nobody wants to be last.”
Senior class photo of Roscoe C. Howard Jr. '70.