06/01/06 — Irene Howell honored by N.C. Wesleyan

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Irene Howell honored by N.C. Wesleyan

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on June 1, 2006 1:46 PM

ROCKY MOUNT -- Irene Smith Howell, the founder of 26 care facilities for the mentally handicapped, including the Walnut Creek facility, received an honorary doctor of laws degree from North Carolina Wesleyan College during the school's 43rd commencement ceremony May 6.

College President Dr. Ian Newbould praised Mrs. Howell, a Lenoir County native, as an "outstanding daughter of eastern North Carolina."

Mrs. Howell began a day-care business in 1956. It was a new concept at the time. Eventually, she helped start a group home for girls and a home for the mentally handicapped at Caswell Center in Kinston.

When her grandson was born with disabilities, she foresaw the need for a residential care facility and established Howell Child Care Center in 1970.

Howell's, a private, non-profit corporation, has grown to 26 intermediate care and group homes for mentally handicapped residents across the state.

"Irene Howell's vision and commitment to her fellow humans represents the triumph of hope. Family tragedies might well have caused her to ask, 'Why me, God?' But she did not do so. Rather, she demonstrated the resilience of the human spirit. Guided by a strong sense of Christian mission, this remarkable woman committed herself to the betterment of special needs children and their families. To care for these children of God, to treat them with dignity and respect, became her passion," Newbould said in his remarks.

Mrs. Howell and her husband, Gordon Reece Howell, have two daughters and three sons. Two sons are graduates of North Carolina Wesleyan College, Gerald Howell of Goldsboro and Joseph Howell of Charlotte.