“Everyone has been very welcoming and very generous so far, not just here, but in the community as well,” he said. “I’m still getting to know all of the staff, the buildings and, of course, the kids.
“For the long term, I want to ensure the future of the Presbyterian Home. It has a wonderful history and heritage, and it is my job to make sure that continues into the future. The preferred future I see is for this to remain in the community for a long, long time.”
According to resource director Karla Conway, Howard and his wife, Cindy, have moved into the president’s home on campus, which had been vacant for the past couple of years.
Conway said Howard’s predecessor, William S. Wills, had decided to retire in Talladega, and had already built a house for his family here.
The children are glad to see the president living on campus again, and vice-versa.
“It helps being able to have lunch with them, to see them at mid-day,” Howard said. “I’m gradually learning the names and putting them with the faces. We also had a community meeting, which helped.”
According to a biography provided by Conroy, Howard “was most recently vice president of Program Services for the Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care, a multi-location nonprofit with various programs, serving children in both residential and non-residential settings. He is a graduate of Southern Nazarene University with an MBA and a BS in organizational leadership. Mark has worked in residential childcare ministries in Oklahoma since 2005. Prior to that he served as a minister and in management of several transportation companies.”
It was this dual role that first caught Howard’s attention, he said.
“I got an email from a friend about the position at the Presbyterian Home,” he said. “At the time, I was looking at another position, but I was struck by the job description of pastor/administrator on the website. There are not many jobs out there for that particular combination.”
Howard applied with the Presbyterian Home Board of Trustees, which consists of members from all over the state. The board formed a selection committee, which recommended the finalists, and the board ultimately chose Howard for the position.
“There were a lot of good candidates,” Conway said, “so they got to pick the best.”
“While at the Circle of Care, Mark was responsible for providing overall leadership, supervision of all staff, youth, volunteers, contract personnel and the physical plant of multiple facilities,” according to the bio. “The Circle of Care’s programs included a children’s home, boys ranch, independent/ transitional living programs, community intervention services, transitional housing program for homeless women with children, foster family recruitment and support, and emergency foster care family recruitment.”
Howard and his wife have two grown children and a compliment of rescued animals. Currently, they are sharing their home with two elderly dogs and five cats, including a kitten Cindy Howard rescued shortly before they left Oklahoma and is still nursing back to health. Howard also has a great love of horses, and is a trained equine assisted learning and psychotherapy facilitator.
Howard said he actually startled one of the residents recently while looking for a lost cat during a thunderstorm. The cat was hiding in the attic, as it turned out, and Howard got to meet one of his students. These are the kinds of encounters that really demonstrate the advantages to living on campus. “You can wave at people and tell them it’s good to see them. It’s important for me to see them, and for them to see me.”
Howard has already joined the Talladega Rotary Club and First Presbyterian Church, although he is likely to be traveling on Sundays.
“I have just been extremely impressed with the community’s friendliness and hospitality,” he said. “Everywhere I’ve gone, the post office, the driver’s license office, the dry-cleaner, the veterinarian, people everywhere have been so nice. This is Southern hospitality at its finest, and everyone has made us feel very welcome.”
Contact Chris Norwood at email@example.com