Weldon E. Howitt was a pillar to our community and the only living man to ever have a school in Farmingdale commemorating his contributions. As a former student of Howitt Middle School, I have seen firsthand the tremendous impact his dedication to education and the students of the district has carried on as a resounding legacy throughout the years.
In 1919, Mr. Howitt was hired as a biology, physical geography, physics and chemistry teacher, as well as the acting principal of the Farmingdale High School. At that time, the school consisted of 400 students and 12 teachers. He was appointed principal of the high school in 1929 and held this position until 1945 at which time he stated, "Someday statesmen will be wise enough to adjust the problems of the world without calling upon the youth of the land to settle their affairs for them with guns." Those were tumultuous years for both the town and nation due to increasing global conflicts. In 1936, the school district was in such a budget constraint, that the Senior High Yearbook, the "Hi-Life," had to be mimeographed for the graduating seniors. At this time, Mr. Howitt and a group of businessmen wanted to stop the foreclosures of homes in the Farmingdale School District, consequently forming the Bethpage-Farmingdale Federal Savings & Loan Association to help those individuals save their homes. These events were very similar to those in the movie It's a Wonderful Life.
During the second World War, Mr. Howitt, with the aid of the Jr. Red Cross, planted "Victory Gardens," whose crops were canned and distributed to local needy families. The fresh vegetables were then sold and their profits supplied gift boxes for veterans in local VA hospitals. Mr. Howitt was an active member of the Farmingdale Rotary, his efforts helped organize local chapters of the New York Junior Historical Association, where students learned the art of investigating historical events in detail. He was also a charter member of the local Masonic Lodge and was instrumental in helping young men in a concordant organization to realize the fundamental principles of fidelity, patriotism, faith, and honoring womanhood.
Throughout his 26-year term as principal, his impact was seen in numerous ways. The rate of graduating seniors grew from one in 1919, to 100 in 1945. To match the increasing number of students in the district, reaching up to 1,500, he approved two additions to the Main Street School in 1922 and 1929, the north wing containing the gymnasium and auditorium. To build a reputation of not only academic excellence, he expanded the sports program by introducing interscholastic football in 1934. Farmingdale became increasingly appealing to students in surrounding districts during Howitt's years. Within only seven years of his retirement, enrollment continued to surge to over 2,900 students. To match the growing student population, a new high school was necessary and in 1953, Weldon E. Howitt High School opened serving grades seven through 12.
Howitt spent his remaining 36 years in Farmingdale, until his passing in 1981. His devotion to improving our community and raising the bars of education truly qualifies the tribute of naming the Weldon E. Howitt School after such a deserving individual.