Howard Clapper: The ‘face of Richland’ information retires

Howard Clapper, who works at the information desk in Thunderduck Hall, loves his students and does the best he can to help them succeed. He pushes, mentors and encourages students to reach their goals. He tells them to never doubt themselves, to look at who they are and realize something is possible, but they must have faith. Clapper is retiring after serving at Richland for almost 13 years.

Clapper and his wife moved to Texas from New England after he retired from a government job. He is well known among the students at Richland, especially the international students since his desk is near the Multicultural Center.

Richland College President Dr. Kay Eggleston, said, “Howard Clapper is the face of Richland College. In his 12 and a half years of working at Richland he has consistently had a smile on his face. We wish him the best in retirement but we are going to miss him terribly at Richland.”

“When people come in you’re more than a greeter. You’re there for a purpose. When people come in they’re a little anxious, so you start with what they want to do,” Clapper said. He said he likes to read faces when students walk through the halls and try to learn about them.

“My job is to answer the questions for the people, to make them feel welcome so they can always know that somebody is here to help them out,” he said.

Clapper has worked in different positions at the college. He started out working in financial aid and went on to work in veterans’ affairs and later at the information desk. Everyone who passes by gets a smile from him, which draws out smiles on the students’ faces as well. Clapper said that the previous president of Richland, Steve Mittelstet, once told him “you can feel the heartbeat of this school.”

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success Zarina Blankenbaker said, “Howard took his position at Richland, not as a job, but as a colleague. He turned Richland College’s community inside out and took what is the best of Richland, our caring attitude, our safe and welcoming environment, and extended that outwardly to our students and those who come to our college campus. For that, we’re truly grateful.”

Clapper is well known among many cultural groups because of his warm smile and personality. Many students who come to Richland already know about Clapper and greet him even though it’s their first time to meet him in person.

“It’s going to be interesting after I retire,” said Clapper. “I hope the person they put here is open, cordial and has a willingness to learn because you have to know about everything that is happening on campus.”

Clapper is grateful for his time at Richland and the opportunity to meet students from Texas and all over the world.

“I’m blessed. I have had the privilege to meet people from all over the world and I get the chance to learn about their cultures, their religions and themselves, so I’m the luckiest guy in the world. Richland to me is so unique from any other school because it’s so inclusive. It’s a homey place. You come here and get the feeling, ‘hey, this is where I belong.’”

Clapper compared working at Richland to working in the United Nations. He said the most important thing he has learned from helping the students is to not take things personally.

“You can’t be close-minded. You can’t be super sensitive about something,” he said.