Eric Machan Howd: music, love, work

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No one knows the highlights of all our higher education institutions - Binghamton, SUNY Cortland, Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College - better than Eric Machan Howd.

Eric began his work in higher education as a music education and French horn major at IC, graduating in English. Instead of seeking his fortune back on the New Jersey shore, where he grew up, Ithaca has been his home ever since:

“Love kept me here,” he said.

Right out of college, Eric married Katharyn Machan, well known in Ithaca as a writer, poet, dancer and muse.

“I also loved this area and the vibe,” Eric said. “After all these years, I still love Katharyn (and our kids), this area and the vibe.”
Out of school and just married, Eric worked for a time in Robbie Dein’s

People’s Pottery. Studying sign language in college, Eric next moseyed on to the Special Children’s Center (now the Francisca Racker Centers), where he served as a teacher’s aide and sign language teacher for pre-K kids.

“I loved the Center,” he said. “I loved teaching kids and using sign language to communicate with them. … Looking back now, I realize how important it was to empower these children with a channel to communicate and express themselves. This job was when I first realized my passion for teaching.”

Heading South on Route 96, Eric next worked as a teaching assistant at Tompkins Employees Day Care beside the Old Hospital grounds. Knowing that he loved working with little kids, Eric thrived as a teacher in the historic cottage and on the playground.

When Katharyn and Eric’s second child, Benny, was born, Eric put in for paternity leave, not yet popularized nor widely supported. When he was turned down, he settled into their downtown home enjoying his own two kids and being with them during their pre-school years.

Synchronizing naps with studies, Eric began his first graduate degree at SUNY Binghamton, while being a full-time dad for two years. When the kids were ready to explore more of the world, Eric became a teacher and director of after-school programming at Belle Sherman Elementary and then at GIAC.

Biggest perk: Kids go for free! Eric juggled so well, everyone was happy and healthy.

To savor his music, his love of kids and his contribution to the family till, Eric also hosted and trained 50 plus piano students over the years at McNeil Music or at home.

“The schedule was flexible,” he said. “I love teaching piano, playing piano, being with kids.”

Katharyn and Eric love downtown Ithaca. By the time the family of four outgrew their Fayette Street home, they began to look for more space.

“All I really longed for in a home was room for a grand piano and a fireplace,” he said. “The first home we looked at, a few blocks from the downtown, had a grand piano in a room with a fireplace. We have loved this home since we first saw it.”

Over almost 30 years in the Ithaca area, Eric has provided childcare, pre-K instruction, project management, instructional design and music.

“I just went with it,” he said.

When both kids were in school, Eric signed on with TC3 as an instructional designer. For the next 17 years, while his locale varied, Eric supported instructional design and served as project manager to support professors in their curricula development. As director of academic technology, Eric felt he was at the “heart of learning” - building online programs and training faculty to be comfortable with technology and to innovate in their endeavors.

“As faculty picked up the newest technology, they loved it,” he said. “Their curiosity expanded, and they were able to share their classes with more and more students of all ages.”

Next, Eric headed up to Cornell to join Academic Technologies, where he stayed for six years providing project management and instructional design support.

Next stop: SUNY Binghamton’s Center for Learning and Teaching as an instructional designer. After two years, however, Ithaca College realized Eric’s real skill was in writing and they offered him a one-year position while they did a national search.

After the one-year search, IC selected Eric to fill the full-time non-tenure track eligible position.

“I love teaching,” he said. “I love the profession, teaching writing, the teaching schedule, flexible time in the summer.”

During the summers, Eric has pursued his second graduate degree; In July of 2019, Eric received his master’s in fine arts and creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, Vermont. Since the ’90s, Eric has written and published poetry and journalism.

“I follow a ‘business practice’ in my writing,” he said. “I set aside time to write and I continually send out my work to journals and magazines for publication. A recent collection of my work draws on growing up on the Shore and the intricacies of family relationships.”

Eric, savoring the best of so many local educational programs, has created a life which inspires others and pleases him, every day.

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