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School community mourns the loss of Professor Matthew Howard

Matthew O. Howard, Ph.D., the Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor for Human Services Policy Information at the UNC School of Social Work, died on Dec. 15, 2018, following a lengthy hospitalization.

Howard, born in 1956, also served as an associate faculty research fellow for the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at UNC. He joined the School of Social Work in 2007, after three years as a professor of social work and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. At UNC, he served as associate dean for faculty development at the School of Social Work (2012-2015) and as associate dean for doctoral education (2016-2018).

“Matthew was a beloved member of our School, our University and our campus community,” said Dean Gary L. Bowen. “He was a committed and highly respected social work scholar, a wonderful colleague, and an instructive and supportive mentor to junior colleagues and students. He will be missed dearly.”

Howard, who earned his master’s degree in social work and doctoral degree in social welfare from the University of Washington, Seattle, was known nationally for his expertise in inhalant substance abuse/disorders, substance use among juvenile offenders, and alcohol dependence. His work in these areas earned him numerous recognition, including induction as a member and fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine in 2010. The following year, he was named a fellow of the Society for Social Work and Research. Two years later, he was selected a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Welfare, an honorific society of distinguished scholars and practitioners dedicated to achieving excellence in the field of social work and social welfare through high impact work that advances social good.

A prolific scholar, Howard was recognized in 2016 as among the country’s top 40 social work researchers whose scholarly contributions were having a “high impact” addressing social and health issues within the social work profession and across the diverse disciplines that encompassed their respective areas of focus.

Over the course of his career, he authored nearly 400 publications, including more than 300 peer reviewed articles, book reviews, editorials, government reports and abstracts. He also served on the editorial boards of nearly 60 academic journals published across the world. Most recently, he was still serving on the editorial boards of nearly 30 journals, including the Journal of Cognitive Neuropsychology, Journal of Cancer Science, Journal of Preventive Medicine & Research, Journal of Neuroscience and Neuropsychology, and Journal of Pediatrics & Neonatal Biology.

In 2015, he was appointed editor-in-chief of the Journal of Addictive Diseases; a year later he was named associate editor of the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. He previously served as the editor-in-chief of Social Work Research, the flagship journal of the National Association of Social Workers, and as the North American editor for the British Journal of Social Work, a publication of the British Association of Social Workers.

A principal investigator of three grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health, Howard also provided expert consultation to the DSM-5 Substance Use Disorders Committee, Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Institutes of Health, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Although a highly respected researcher, Howard was also considered a compassionate and supportive force in the classroom, where MSW and Ph.D. students praised his gifts as a teacher. Students particularly appreciated Howard’s willingness to adjust his teaching to assist students with different learning styles. Doctoral students also sought out Howard as a mentor, advisor, and doctoral chair.

Howard won numerous awards for teaching excellence, including the University’s 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction, an honor only four UNC faculty are selected for each year.

“Teaching is only one of the things I do…but I think it’s the most gratifying,” Howard said in an interview in 2013. “I really love it.”