Left: Howie Leifer with his famous puppets at the
Reflections on Howie Leifer
Buchanan Street campus, 1990s.
Below: At the 50th Anniversary Alumni Authors
Event, February 2012.
DAN HARDER HOD English
To have looked at him, you wouldn’t have imme- diately thought, “Now that’s a basketball play- er,” but you’d have been wrong. True, he wasn’t quite as tall as Wilt Chamberlain, but he didn’t need to be to play notably well on the streets of New York. And you wouldn’t probably have thought, “Oh yes, that’s the walk and talk of a
REAL artist,” but you’d have been wrong again. When
you’re the real deal, as he whimsically was, the walk and
the talk don’t mean a thing. And to see him in the halls
of school, you probably would never have thought, “See
there... that’s the telltale swagger of the Popular Teacher,”
and again, you’d have been wrong. Howie Leifer didn’t
need swagger; he just had to smile and ask you how you
were doing in that honest way he honestly did everything and, immediately, you’d know why he was one of
those very popular, much-loved teachers.
Howie died on January 5th. Most of the people at the
school didn’t know him and, so, don’t know why those of
us who did know him feel such a profound loss. But trust
us, that playful, constantly caring, gnome-like-looking fellow who used to teach and create art at FABS, then FAIS,
then IHS did more than earn our love and respect. He lived
the reasons every day. I can count on one hand the teachers
I’ve known who have shown such a sustained concern for
their students, both while they were students and after they
had left our school. When Howie asked in his high-pitched
New York accent, “How you doin’?” it wasn’t just a hallway
greeting, it was a serious question. He wanted to hear – and
would do what he could to make – your answer, “Good!”
Howie inspired people to create, Howie inspired people to
care about art – and other people, and Howie may still –
for those who knew him and for those who now know who
he was – inspire us to wonder what it is to be “good” as
artists, as teachers, as people.