MURRAY - Dr. Robert Howard, Kimberly Howard Willson, and Mary Kay Howard Bowden have pledged a $25,000 gift to Murray High School in honor and memory of their late father, Dr. Russell E.P. Howard.

“For generations, MHS has provided our family with an exemplary education,” said  Bowden. “Our father was the smartest, bravest, most generous and loving man that we have ever known. He instilled in us the values of hard work and determination. He believed that with these principles, combined with a great education, anything was possible. He also sincerely loved the people of Murray, and believed that all students were capable of making a positive contribution to the world. We hope that this gift will serve as a resource to enhance education and opportunities for MHS students and encourage them to reach their full potential.” 

To honor their late father, the MHS Lobby, in the new entrance to the school, will be named the Dr. Russell E.P. Howard Lobby. An unveiling and dedication ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, in the lobby at the high school.  All family and friends are invited to attend the dedication ceremony.

A 1967 MHS graduate, Dr. Howard attributed the superior education received while attending MHS for laying the foundation for his academic and professional success. His teachers fostered his passion for music, zeal for learning, and bestowed a great appreciation and comprehension of the applied sciences. During his academic career, Dr. Howard enjoyed student government and served as class president. Named “Most Talented,” by his MHS senior peers, Howard cultivated his musical talents and became an accomplished pianist and guitarist. His high-school rock band, “The Discoteques,”  performed an opening act for The Beach Boys.  Howard’s knack for music was inherited from his father, the late Walter Rudolph Howard, the former minister of music for First Baptist Church in Murray.  

Dr. Russ Howard attended Murray State University and then earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine. He was appointed Chief Fellow in cardiology at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. He was a distinguished Fellow of both the American College of Physicians and the American College of Cardiology. His work and contribution to cardiology is published in the prestigious “Journal of the American Medical Association.” 

Dr. Howard was the first cardiologist to practice in Murray. During his career, he founded the Murray Heart Center, which provided world-class care to the community that he loved. He served as Chief of Staff at the Murray-Calloway County Hospital, president of the Calloway County Medical Society and was the first medical director and founding board member of the Angels Community Clinic. He considered education, determination, and community service to be paramount and essential for an impactful life. 

At the age of 41, Howard was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which he fought bravely and without complaint for 12 years. Even as his health deteriorated, he maintained the highest level of medical care to his patients. He often said that his personal suffering gave him more compassion for his patients and made him a better physician.

Dr. Russ Howard and his wife, Cynthia Sawyer, loved Murray and were pleased to watch their children thrive at MHS. Their son,  Dr. Robert Sawyer Howard, graduated in 1997. Like his father, Robert also served as class president and Student Council president. Their twin daughters, Mary Kay Howard Bowden and Kimberly Howard Willson graduated from MHS in 1998. Mary Kay served as class president for four consecutive years and vice president of the Student Council. She was an All-State soccer player and co-captain of the team. Kimberly was class vice resident for three consecutive years, a spirited cheerleader, Prom Queen, and Miss Murray High. All three siblings received their bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Robert Howard also earned his degree in medicine. He is married to Mallory Rudolph, a 2002 MHS alumnus. Dr. and Mrs. Robert Howard have two children, Robert Preston, 4, and Ben Rudolph, 1, and they currently reside in Murray. He practices psychiatry at Clear Creek Medical and is the Mental Health Director for the VA Clinic in Hopkinsville. Mary Kay and Kim earned their master’s degree in art in religion from Yale Divinity School. Mary Kay currently resides in Houston, Texas with her husband, Brandt Bowden, and four children, Russell Murry, 9, Annabelle Sawyer,7, Kimberly Blye, 5, and Mayfair Kay, 2. Kimberly resides in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband, Drew Willson, and their children, Mary Drew,9, Russell Sanders, 7, and Kimberly Clementine,3.  

Dr. Russ Howard shared MHS’s “Tradition of Excellence” with many other family members.  His mother,  Opal Blalock Howard, graduated from MHS in 1935 and taught sixth grade for 18 years. His sister, Judy Howard Carroll (1964), brother-in-law, the late Ed Carroll (1956), nephew, Brian Thomas Carroll (1990) and niece, Kathryn Carroll Payne (1993) also graduated from MHS.  

He credited his unwavering faith in God and the support of his family as his source of strength throughout his illness. His life and legacy serves as an example for all students, faculty, staff and community members. 

“He demonstrated that you can make a positive impact on the world even through suffering and countless obstacles,” said Bowden. “He fought for his life so that he could help his patients fight for theirs. With hard work and determination, he provided exceptional medical care to the very people who guided, taught and encouraged him to pursue his passions,” 

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