The year was 1965 and C. Howard Pieper, Texas ’48, was returning to his home in Minneapolis from a work trip to Nigeria. Howard had a passion for overseas travel and exercised it on a regular basis. The Nigeria trip was special, not because of the destination, but because of his “souvenirs.”
Howard had brought back two African Grey parrots, Koko and Sam. The parrots quickly became part of the family, and when Howard and his wife moved to Houston, the parrots made the move south, as well.
Howard joined Phi Kappa Tau in 1948 and served as the chapter’s social chairman. Graduating early, he joined the Army. His assignment was in intelligence, where he controlled information-gathering flights. After the Korean conflict, he returned to the University of Texas to earn his master’s degree in architectural engineering.
Howard was determined to work overseas, and in the 1960s he took a job with a consulting firm in Nigeria. When he returned, he and Betty, who he met in college, reconnected and soon married. Howard kept ties with Phi Kappa Tau by regularly attending get-togethers with Beta Alpha alumni and serving on the Board of Governors for Epsilon Alpha at Texas A&M.
In 1995, Howard had the foresight to plan for the future. He downsized his business and reviewed his estate plans. His primary concern was for his two parrots because of their long lifespan. Howard’s estate plan includes a permanent sanctuary for his parrots and the creation of a philanthropic foundation to support the charities and causes which he was passionate about.
Howard passed away on February 22, 2013, two weeks after his beloved parrot, Sam. Howard and his parrot, Sam, were together for 46 years, a remarkable length of time for a pet, and as Howard noted, “One who talks to you, too.”
Howard’s philanthropic legacy lived on through the good work of the C. Howard Pieper Foundation. The foundation made annual gifts to several charitable organizations that had missions focused on animal care, the environment and the arts—all passions of Howard.
Included in the list of worthy organizations was the Phi Kappa Tau Foundation. Howard was proud of his affiliation and supported the Fraternity throughout his life. He made annual contributions to the Foundation and was proud of his membership in the Heritage Society.
The C. Howard Pieper Foundation continued to support Phi Kappa Tau annually with donations to the Foundation. In 2016, the foundation’s trustees voted to disburse the remaining assets to the organizations Howard was most passionate about. Leon Whitney,
Texas ’54, was a chapter brother and loyal friend of Howard. He served as a trustee of the Pieper Foundation.
Knowing Howard’s love for Phi Kappa Tau, Leon reached out to the Phi Kappa Tau Foundation staff to start a conversation which resulted in a substantial gift.
The Phi Kappa Tau Foundation Board of Trustees voted to honor Howard’s lifelong generosity by creating the C. Howard Pieper Fund as a permanent fund. This action assured that Howard’s legacy will live on and his generosity would support the future generation of Phi Tau brothers for decades.
Howard was a renaissance man, a leader, a scholar, a world traveler and a music lover. He was a mentor, providing helpful advice to his many friends—of all ages—often charging “a Scotch” for valuable professional advice. He was a nature lover and had numerous and various pets over the years, including ducks, cats and, most of all, parrots.