When asked how he discovered the key to enjoying retirement so much, Academy member Howard Brand replied with his trademark wit and humor. “Some guys never retire. Some guys retire with a whole bucket list of things to do. I’ve always done just exactly what I wanted to do.”
Some of the things he has enthusiastically chosen to do might surprise you. To name just two—both rare for a man of his generation—Howard served on the Colorado Commission for Women in the 1980s and spent a decade as “Mr. Mom,” caring for his children and home, while his wife earned a degree and then went to work.
Howard also forged a career as a self-described computer geek by navigating the epic changes in technology during his adult years. After a stint in the Air Force learning electronics, he went to work for the Burroughs Corporation, mastering the predecessor to the computer before graduating to the real thing. “I went from punch cards to personal computers: pc’s to PCs,” he says with a laugh.
In his Academy classes, Howard indulges both his geek side and the dilettante he claims to be at heart. He has a hard time picking any favorites among his courses, since he has found “all the classes to be wonderful.” On the one hand, he marvels at course leader John Anderson’s thorough research and intellectual depth. Having taken John’s classes on mathematical theorists and the physics of time, Howard considers John “a geek’s geek.” But he also was amazed at how much he learned about music in Robin McNeil’s and Lorraine Sherry’s classes, and about aging and other personal issues in George Ho’s End-of-Life Choices and Ruth Neubauer’s Psychological Growth: Our Losses & Gains.
In between his Academy classes, Howard still finds time to greet Academy participants (always with a warm welcome and often with a spontaneous joke) and help staff the Denver Art Museum gift shop. With a richly resonant voice worthy of commercial radio or television, Howard has also served as an expert reader for the nonprofit Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic; he has recorded books as demanding as advanced economics texts and the history of the Panama Canal.
One of his most rewarding volunteer jobs, he notes, has been as a teacher in free ESL classes and as a one-on-one tutor for non-native US residents. In mentoring a South Korean minister studying at a Denver seminary, he went well beyond his “job description,” persevering until he realized that their ideal ESL text was the Bible and later helping to edit his student’s seminary essays.
Clearly Howard’s fulfilling retirement could be a model for us all, but we know he’d just advise us to “always do exactly what you want to do.”