Obituary: Philip Howlett

Philip Howlett

Philip G. Howlett, a longtime resident of Greenwich, Conn., who lived most recently in Pasadena, Calif., died on May 9 surrounded by family. He was 91 years old. A memorial service is being planned for a future date.

Howlett was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 3, 1928, the son of Grayle W. Howlett, Sr., and Ruth E. Temmel, the seventh of eight children. He moved to Evanston, Ill., as a child and attended Catholic and public primary schools before matriculating to Evanston Township High School, from which he graduated in 1945. He was the starting shortstop his junior and senior years and, with several teammates, attended a St. Louis Cardinals training camp in Illinois with little success. (He couldn’t hit the curve.)

Too young to enter the armed services, he earned a scholarship to Northwestern University, where he completed his freshman year. Now of age, he joined the U.S. Army on Aug. 1, 1946, and served in the Army of Occupation in Yokohama, Japan. After receiving an honorable discharge in November 1947, he resumed studies at Northwestern and made the varsity baseball team. In 1949, he married a fellow student, Ann Flowers, and a year later earned his B.S. in Political Science.

Upon graduation, Howlett took a job in the public relations department of Wilson Sporting Goods Co. When the department expanded to include advertising, he was promoted to director in 1954. While at Wilson, he ghostwrote books with Australian tennis great Frank Sedgman (Frank Sedgman’s Winning Tennis, 1954) and professional baseball player/manager Paul Richards (Modern Baseball Strategy, 1955). He also had the pleasure of conducting the press party for the promising young golfer Arnold Palmer, who was turning professional after winning the National Amateur Championship and joining the prestigious Wilson Sporting Goods Co. advisory staff.

After retiring, Howlett wrote a short memory piece about Palmer’s early professional years, which appeared in Sports Illustrated.
In 1956, Howlett received an attractive offer from McCann Erickson but after several years determined the ad agency side of the business was not for him. This proved to be fortuitous since in 1958 he accepted a position as a sales representative at the venerable Life magazine, then at its peak in the media world. After a highly successful seven-year sales career at Life, Howlett joined Time Inc.’s prestigious business magazine, Fortune, in 1965 as their New York manager.

In 1970, a rare opportunity was afforded him with the flagship Time magazine in Europe. He became the European publishing director of Time’s International Editions, with responsibilities for Europe, the Mideast and Africa, and was based out of Time’s London office. Howlett’s family joined him on this five-year adventure. He considered his time in London to be a remarkable business challenge given each country’s unique cultural nuances and varying levels of marketing sophistication, which required a deft approach.

With some regret, he returned to the United States in 1974 to become associate publisher of Sports Illustrated. Two years later, he was promoted to advertising director and in 1980 was named publisher. In 1984, Howlett made the groundbreaking decision for SI to become an Official Olympic Sponsor of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The publication’s ongoing sponsorship of the Summer and Winter Olympics proved to be a revenue-generating bonanza for SI for several decades to come.
Following three successful years in the publisher role, Howlett was promoted to executive vice president of Time Inc.’s Magazine Division, serving as deputy to the president, Kelso Sutton. In that capacity, Howlett oversaw the monthly titles at Time, Inc., while Sutton was responsible for the weeklies.

Howlett took early retirement from Time, Inc. in 1986 to enjoy more time with his wife, Ann, and their children and grandchildren. He also immersed himself in his interests, which included traveling, reading, writing, attending the theatre and playing golf.

Ann, his beloved wife of 68 years, died in 2018 in Pasadena after battling Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. Their second child, Hilary, died of cancer at age 65, also in 2018. Howlett is survived by his four children, Leslie, Peter, Grayle and Philip, and three grandsons, Luke, Dylan and Matthew. Howlett’s sister, Ruth E. Pearce, is his sole surviving sibling.

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