What Fun! Howard Doster: Reflections on a Life Lived with Passion

What Fun! Howard Doster
Reflections on a Life Lived with Passion
By his daughter, Anne Glaze, February 2020

We all know Howard’s tag line for life, “What Fun!” Howard lived life in high gear; full speed ahead no matter what. His passion sometimes caused him to butt heads with folks, but his passion – for everything he believed in – propelled him forward. Fun, for Howard, often meant turning an idea over in his head until he could express it as concisely as possible. Most often, Fun meant taking a genuine, personal interest in every person he met.
I’ve had the privilege to walk alongside both of my parents these past several years as the effects of time have caught up with them. Throughout Howard’s cancer and Barbara’s progressing dementia, they have continued their life’s work of being genuinely interested in other persons – that’s why we’re all here. Somehow, sometime, something they said or did touched each one of us personally. And, we’re grateful for having walked this way with them for a time.
Some will remember conversations about farming, genealogy, or local history. Some will remember Howard’s passionately held opinions… and Barbara’s wonderful smile to balance it all. Some will remember his passion for playing ball – baseball, basketball, and until recently, softball. And most of us will remember his seemingly endless energy to think up another “C- idea.”
You each remember a story about Howard, and always with Barbara close by. I hope you’ll share your memories with us at www.thefunisintherun.com or send them in an email to howard@bhdoster.com.

The Fun Run Story

The Fun Run Story
D. Howard Doster, Fall 2013

I placed this poem at the top of my farm accounting lecture notes for my Purdue Short Course Farm Management class on February 9, 1986. I had written it, while driving Indiana rural roads, on the back of an envelope, earlier that winter to cheer myself up. I was feeling so badly because so many Indiana farm couples had “bought one too many,” during the land price bubble in the late seventies-early eighties. Although I had never advised any of them to buy land, I had advised many of them to get bigger. If only they had rented land….

A month later, Kevin Ramsey – now, a successful central Indiana farmer – then, the Short Course valedictorian, used the poem in his valedictory speech. When Maury Williamson, the Purdue Ag Alumni Secretary, was inducting the Short Course students into the Ag Alumni Association, he asked Kevin where he got the poem. Kevin answered, “From Dr. Doster’s lecture notes.” “I might have guessed,” mused Maury, “All one-syllable words.” I smiled. I do try to use words I understand.

I had forgotten about the poem until, years later, I saw it on SW Indiana farmer David Allyn’s office wall. His sons had been in that Short Course class. His daughter-in-law had typed the poem into the form you now see. After I remarked about my delight in seeing the poem, she gave me a copy.

Barbara, my wife, used that copy to make this one for you. I read a copy every morning as I get up. Perhaps you will, too.


The fun is in the run.
Make your daily run fun.
Each day, at work or at play
It’s what we do, and what we say
That makes the difference
In our way.

The fun’s done when the race is won.
Daily we must look for a new race to run.
What is the test?
Daily to do our best.
Anything less is a sin.
Run hard, Run well, and win.
D. Howard Doster, 1986

The Doster-Huie memo on farmland assessment

I think about Howard Doster every time I consult the documentation for farmland property assessment on the Department of Local Government Finance website (here: https://www.in.gov/dlgf/7016.htm ). Back in 1998 the Indiana Supreme Court required Indiana to change the way property was assessed for taxes. In 1999 Howard Doster and John Huie wrote a memo describing how farmland could be assessed, to be consistent with the Court’s requirements. The DLGF adopted the method, and includes the memo in their reference materials when they announce the new farmland base rate every year. It’s on pages 10 to 14 of the 2020 document. It’s just one small project in a lifetime of effort, but that’s several hundred million dollars of tax bills and local government revenue, all based on Howard’s work.