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Alumni Spotlight

From Janitor to Executive

From janitor to executive Dr. Lonnie Howard, San Jacinto College Class of 1993, was told in elementary school that he was not college material. Defying the odds, born in a small shack that had no running water, a first-generation minority student, and placed in developmental classes, Dr. Howard not only attended college, but he excelled, earning five degrees. He now serves as president and CEO of Clover Park Technical College, a two year college located near Tacoma, Washington.

After barely graduating from high school, attending college seemed remote. Academically ill-prepared and with no financial resources, he had few options except to join the U.S. Army. Following military service, with few marketable skills, he took the first job he could find as a janitor in “a very dirty industrial shop.” Through diligence, he worked his way up to a welder’s helper and eventually to a mid-level management position. As a journeyman welder in the North Channel area, he found himself laid off and heard about the San Jacinto College welding technology program.

Having unsuccessfully tried another two-year college almost a decade earlier, but still wanting a degree, he hesitated to enroll at San Jacinto College. “When I visited the campus, I found a friendly and encouraging environment,” he commented. “The faculty and staff were simply amazing, giving me much needed confidence. Despite requiring developmental classes, I remembered my mother’s favorite saying as child, ‘It doesn’t really matter where you start, the important thing is where you finish.’ So I was hopeful that San Jacinto College would help me get on track.”

He did more than just get on track. He went on to earn an associate degree in welding technology from San Jacinto College, and was named the welding department chair. Dr. Howard says non-credit developmental classes were key to his overcoming anxieties and doing well as a college student, something he once thought would never happen. “If it wasn’t for my associate degree from San Jacinto College, I would never have earned a general studies associate degree from Houston Community College, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree in occupational technology from the University of Houston.” He went on to graduate among the top of his class (4.0 grade point average) with a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Texas. He also has participated in post-doctoral training at Penn State University, and Harvard University.

As an alumnus of two community colleges, and now serving as president of a two-year technical college, Dr. Howard knows firsthand about the value such institutions provide. “Not everyone wants or needs a formalized four-year college degree,” he said. “Some want to earn a one-year certificate, learning entry-level skills for immediate employment. Others opt for associate degrees to enter the job market with professional-technical skills. And for those pursuing bachelor’s degrees, two-year colleges offer more affordable transfer options. Also, two-year colleges provide professional development and workforce solutions for business and industry.”

To read more about Dr. Howard, visit