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Howard Metzler, Long-Time Director of Annuities & Trusts, Has Died at 88

Howard Metzler

Our friend, colleague and mentor, Howard Charles Metzler, died on May 11, 2012, at the age of 88.  He served Pomona College as director of the Annuity & Trust Department and associate vice president of development from 1974 until his retirement in 1992.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on April 28, 1924, Howard entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1941 on a Congressional appointment, where he began a long and distinguished military career, eventually earning three Legion of Merit commendations and a Bronze Star.

His Class of 1944 graduated in three years in order to contribute to the final year of World War II, and D-Day was announced during the graduation ceremony on June 6, 1944.  By December, Howard was in France and then in Germany with the Eighth Infantry Division.  During his lifetime, Mr. Metzler often noted that much of what he knew of honesty, integrity and character was gained during his time at West Point. 

Howard’s entrance into the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was a natural result of his lifelong zeal for and skill in mathematics and science.  Before leaving for Europe, he attended The Engineer School in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, and entered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  His family was later both awestruck and somewhat amused at the image of a 20-year-old Lieutenant commanding seasoned troops in Germany.

When he returned to the United States, the Army sent Howard to Iowa State College for a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering.    His subsequent Army career as an engineer took him all over the world, with posts in Okinawa, New Mexico, Texas and California.  At some of his posts, he was responsible for the construction of bridges requiring complex engineering solutions.  Midway through his military career, he switched from the Corps of Engineers to Ordnance.  He served in his second war, the Korean War, as an Ordnance officer.

In 1959, Howard married Ruth Hermison, while both were working at the Pentagon.   Colonel and Mrs. Metzler resided in various places, including New Jersey, where Howard wrote the first Safety and Reliability Program for Atomic Weapons; New York, where he was Commanding Officer of Seneca Depot;  Maryland, where he headed the Research Laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Grounds; Virginia, where he was stationed at the Pentagon; and Frankfurt, Germany.  During this time, he also attended the National War College in Washington, D. C.; the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.

The third and final war in which Howard served was the war in Vietnam.  In 1971, he was deputy commander of the First Logistics Command in charge of all non-divisional support assets, commanding approximately 25,000 troops.  Following his return to the United States, he requested a West Coast assignment, hoping to stay in one place long enough for his youngest child to remain in the same high school for four years.   The resulting assignment was to head the ROTC program for The Claremont Colleges.   He retired from the Army as a full colonel in 1974 after 30 years of service.

Although the aerospace industry might have been a natural second career for an Army engineer, Howard accepted a position with the deferred giving program at Pomona College in 1974.  Pomona had issued gift annuities almost since its founding in 1887, and in the 1940s Allen Hawley had the brilliant idea of expanding that into a comprehensive program, but Howard furthered these beginnings and became the architect of the modern Pomona Plan.  Over 18 years, he hired outstanding staff, built the investment program for trusts, organized trust administration in the business office, cultivated extraordinary donors to the Pomona Plan and through outright giving, and studied the efficiency of deferred giving in an effort that resulted in the publication of The Costs and Benefits of Deferred Giving (Columbia University Press, 1982) with Norman S. Fink of Columbia University.

Howard’s efforts, in concert with those of his colleagues at the College, brought to Pomona $40 million in new planned gifts, $28 million in releases from matured agreements, and $94 million in bequests administered through his office.  This success is one reason that the endowment grew from $27 million in 1974 to $370 million in 1992 when he retired.

Howard was convinced that the integrity and technical competence of the planned giving staff were of paramount importance, saying that, “In the final analysis, what has contributed most to the current success is the reputation of the Pomona Plan for professional competence and innovation – a reputation carefully built up over decades through the efforts of Allen Hawley and all the dedicated staff members who succeeded him.  In keeping that reputation alive and untarnished, we are taking the most important step to ensure continued success.” By the time he retired from this second career, he was one of the foremost authorities in the United States in the field of planned giving and was made an honorary member of the Pomona Class of 1944, his year of graduation from West Point.

Howard’s family, friends and colleagues will remember him, in particular, for unbounded kindness and compassion, an incomparable work ethic and inviolable integrity.

Howard is survived by his wife of 52 years, Ruth Metzler; his three children from a previous marriage, Bradford Metzler (Judi), Beverly Tifft (Stephen) and Craig Metzler (Linda); his daughter, Lisa Metzler (Richard Winslow); and eleven grandchildren.  A small family graveside service was held on June 4, 2012, at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, where Howard was interred with military honors.

Memorial donations may be made to Pomona College, Office of Donor Relations, 550 North College Way, Claremont, CA 91711, or the West Point Class of ’44 Fund, West Point Association of Graduates, 698 Mills Road, West Point, NY 10996.

Many of you reading this tribute will remember Howard.  We would be pleased if you would add your recollections.