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The Kingsley Association

Chris Howard Featured In Pitt Magazine

Interview By B. Denise Hawkins ~ Photography By Tom Altany/Pitt CIDDE

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Christopher Howard (EDUC ’11), originally from New Kensington, Pa., worked for nearly 20 years at Allegheny Ludlum steel mill. But it was what he did afterwards that made him a true man of steel. Fatherhood sent Howard—a self-described “nerdy student and science-type who loved school”—into the workforce, despite encouragement from family and teachers who wanted him to attend college.

But in 2007, at age 38, he quit his lucrative mill job to earn a University of Pittsburgh degree in exercise physiology, pursuing a personal passion for health and fitness. Today, the honors graduate is owner of C. Howard Fitness in Pittsburgh and cocreator of the wellness podcast Healthology (soundcloud.com/healthology).

 

When did you realize that you could help transform lives and bodies?…

I had always been interested in fitness and became involved with Pitt’s Healthy Black Family Project while still working in steel. I started teaching classes part time and helping people with their diets and ways to become more physically active. Before long, they were walking more, spending more time exercising, eating healthier, and getting regular checkups. And they were giving me credit for saving their lives. That’s when I said, ‘I can really do this and make a difference in people’s lives.’

 

What did Pitt prepare you for?…

For the life that I really wanted to lead and to do what I love, which is helping people with their wellness. Fitness and exercise go so much beyond physical appearance.

 

What can we begin doing today to live more healthy lives?…

Start slow. Drink more water. If you can take 15 or 30 minutes during your lunch break, get out and walk. Don’t be sedentary. Remember, nothing happens overnight. To earn my degree, I had to have 125 credits; I started with zero. I worked on getting
seven credits, then eight, and just continued to chip away.

 

Do you keep any mementos from your steel-working days?…

On my last night in the mill, we were working on grinding some of the most expensive material—a high-grade stainless steel. At the end of my shift, with my boss watching, I celebrated by scooping up some handfuls of the metallic dust into a few empty Pepsi bottles. Today, I have a glass vase of that grinder dust on my desk. I can open it up, and the smell takes me right back to the mill. It always reminds me of the life change I went through and how far I’ve come.

 

A mantra you live by…

Be thankful for today and make the most of it.

 

What motivated you to return to college later in life?…

My Aunt, Jackie Howard-Willingham (A&S ’80), is a Pitt grad. She was always pushing me, telling me I needed to go back to school. I also wanted that level of professionalism that comes with a college degree. Also, a friend told me that the gold standard in fitness training was to have national certification from the American College of Sports Medicine. To get it, I needed to have a degree in exercise science or wellness. That was the carrot he put before me. Now, I have the degree and the certification.

 

What is your greatest joy in life right now?…

Watching my daughter, Kacy, grow into a young lady and go off to college. When she gets there, she’ll have the benefit of two positive role models—her mother, Michele, who was a traditional student, and her father, a nontraditional student.

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