In Memoriam: Howard A. Peters

Howard A. Peters (left) with friend and former colleague Donald Robinson (right).

Howard A. Peters (left) with friend and former
colleague Donald Robinson, adjunct professor in
environmental health sciences. 
(Photo courtesy of Donald Robinson)

July 22, 2020

Howard A. Peters, former director of health and safety and faculty in environmental health sciences, died at the age of 93 on Friday, April 17, in Homosassa, Fla. A native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, he was born May 5, 1926, to Henry A. and Lydia A. (Heuwinkel) Peters, one of six children.

He served his country in the United States Navy from 1946 to 1948 as an electronics technician attaining the rank of Second-Class Petty Officer, serving aboard the USS Fort Marion. Howard married the former Deloria Mae Steinhauer in his native Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Dec. 31, 1948, sharing nearly 72 years of marriage. Peters earned his doctorate in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1964. While a graduate student, Howard also taught classes at Duke University in Durham.

Howard and Deloria Peters moved to Amherst, Mass. in November of 1964. At that time, he was hired as the director of environmental health and safety program for UMass Amherst and lecturing in the environmental health program in the School of Public Health (SPH), a position he held until 1970. He then became a full-time associate professor in the SPH, also teaching a course at Mass Medical School in Worcester, Mass. One of his major contrinutions as a faculty member in the renamed School of Public Health and Health Sciences, was the founding with two other faculty members, of the national public health honor society, Delta Omega. Besides his research, he was chairperson of the environmental health science department, teaching the core graduate course. Later he was awarded tenure and promoted to full professor and was honored by the student body with election of the "Teacher of the Year" award in 1988. Peters retired from UMass in August of 1990.

Peters loved interacting with students and particularly enjoyed chatting when they popped into his office and asked if he had a minute. Always was available, he counseled them with academic, career and personal advice. Peters was a role model for the new faculty that joined the environmental health program.

He worked tirelessly with the Amherst Board of Health on issues ranging from water supply, sanitary waste disposal and solid waste landfill sitings. He was a practitioner of what he taught. The Town of Amherst is all the better for his devotion to the science of environmental health. Gary Ritter, undergraduate advisee and student and current environmental health and safety manager for Central Heating and Physical Plant, relates that Professor Peters had a great story “about what happens with a fly when it lands on your food. No one wanted lunch after that story.  Sad to hear the news as he was such a nice and genuine man.”

The Peters moved from Amherst to Homosassa, Fla. in 1991. Peters was a member of the United Church of Christ and enjoyed reading periodicals, working on projects in his wood shop, and traveling to Disney each year to visit friends and family.

In addition to his parents, Howard Peters was preceded in death by his five siblings: Helen Peters, Lenora Ellinghausen, Lorene Keever, Ervin Peters and Herbert Peters. Howard is survived by 3 children and 5 grandchildren: physician Claudia A. Peters, and Salvatore Carbonetto (divorced) and their 3 children; Alan Peters and wife Paula and their son; and Carol D. Peters-Wagnon and husband Mike and their daughter.

Read more about Howard A. Peters.