Lorraine Howell (’82), author, teacher, producer
By Collin Denton –
Lorraine Howell (BA, ‘82) author of Give Your Elevator Speech a Lift! is a highly accomplished Department of Communication Cum Laude alumna whose motivational seminars and skills conferences in media skills training have been requested by the likes of Starbucks, Microsoft, and ZymoGenetics. She is an outstanding example of how hard work, dedication, and perseverance can lead to many successful paths in life. Because of her accomplishments, this October she will be inducted into the Department of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame.
Howell was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, and attended the very small Mother Butler Memorial High School for Girls. Her graduating class held only 68 girls. Howell suggests that because of this very small sheltered environment, “I wasn’t really ready for a State college with over 25,000 people.” However, Howell continued on to San Jose State University where she said she lacked motivation and was forced to disenroll. “It took me a while to figure out that going to college was important,” she said.
During her time away from college, Howell worked for a local insurance company, became married to David Wilma, and had her first child, Mathew. However, she was not content with her socio-economic status and began thinking of ways to move up in the world. A college education was soon realized as the key needed to progress, as she stated, “It was clear to me that I was only going to go so far in life if I didn’t have a college degree.”
So Howell went back to college, first at North Seattle Community College. She then transferred to the UW School of Communication in the summer of 1979. “When I transferred, communications was probably the only thing I saw in the catalog that would interest me,” she said. At the time, the then School of Communication offered degrees in radio and television production. Howell stated that she “thought that was really interesting” and “considers herself lucky” for being one of the last classes to obtain that specific degree.
In 1982, Howell became a UW Cum Laude graduate , despite her college experience being vastly different to that of the traditional college student. “I was already married, I was a mom by that time, and it took me about six years because I went to school part time. So, I went from somebody who flunked out my first time around to graduating with honors in Phi Beta Kappa.”
She was politically active while attending UW, especially in issues concerning equal rights for women. Acting as President of the Seattle chapter of the National Organization for Women, Howell directly contributed to obtaining women’s rights by organizing rallies and speeches. She also held an internship at Seattle’s KIRO-TV, but it wasn’t until post-graduation and a two year break in Chicago that she would begin her illustrious career in broadcasting back in the Bay Area.
Howell worked for the top rated KTVU, the Fox affiliate in Oakland, as the Senior Segment Producer. She quickly made a name for herself and began booking exclusive, live interviews with top names in the news, public figures, and celebrities. In 1996, she produced live broadcasts from the White House and from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on the Republican & Democratic National Conventions, and she reported from “Camp O.J.” during the Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles.
Howell also worked for KPIX, the CBS affiliate, producing the number one morning talk show, People Are Talking. This one-hour news show featured breaking news stories, controversial issues and emerging trends, and a long list of celebrities. Howell doesn’t go around bragging about her award-winning career, but notes that the awards are a way to highlight her level of expertise in media skills training and give her a sense of credibility.
She was inspired to write her book after colleagues continually requested her help in professional networking and writing speeches. After starting her own business and conducting workshops in media professional training for over two years she began to think, “I need to write this down now.” After all of the signs of success were evident, she was still reluctant to write her book until colleague Dr. Julie Miller gave her “a big kick in the pants.”
Her book, now in its second edition, has sold over 7500 copies and is currently being used as a textbook at Cornell and Rhode Island University. Howell is currently an instructor at the University Of Washington Foster School of Business in the Technology Management MBA and Global Executive MBA programs, where she also uses her book as a learning tool. She also uses it as an entrée in her public speaking seminars. “People take notice and they grant you a level of expertise that you wouldn’t ordinarily have when you’re a subject matter expert.”
In 2009 Howell received the national AWC Headliner Award from the Association for Women in Communication, and she continues to work at educating and developing in various fields of communication. Even after all of her success, Howell stays grounded and humble, citing her graduation from UW as a Phi Beta Kappa member her crowning achievement. She snickers, “that’s something in my heart of hearts that let’s me know that I am not a loser,” but continues, “It was validation that I was smart and could accomplish big things.”
In the future, Howell says, “I’m hoping to expand to other colleges and universities.” She plans to follow up Give Your Elevator Speech a Lift! with Give Your Presentations a Lift!, and possibly Give Your Media Interviews a Lift!. She enjoys teaching and plans to continue her work at the UW Foster School of Business. “I’m very honored to be an instructor at UW at this stage in my career, and I love what I’m doing.”