edward anthony howard the second was born in calverton, ny to james alan howard and mary ellen (molly) donovan as their oldest child and only son, joined three years later by a younger sister katherine marie. after several attempts of a nickname the family settled on 'ned' as a moniker to distinguish him from the grandfather he was named for. was a fairly healthy child with the typical illnesses. had an early aptitude for building and constructing. routinely got in trouble for disassembling and reassembling his and his younger sister's toys and household appliances. was taught practical mechanics all through his childhood.
howard innovations (h.i.), the company his great-grandfather alan started as a fabrication shop in the mid 1920s had grown to be a leader in transportation technology by the time ned was born. james was the managing director of h.i,'s aviation division, which at the time was based in calverton, ny. h.i. was instrumental in helping to construct components of the apollo lunar landers and originated the design of the us postal and united parcel service's delivery fleet of vehicles, both still in use today.
started attending the riley avenue school but quickly blew through kindergarten, first and second grade curriculums. family moved to westchester county when ned was 7 to be closer to the company's main headquarters campus in tarrytown, ny. ned and kate were then taught by private tutors. began attending the exclusive hackley school college preparatory school at age 10 as a 7th grader. graduated 12th grade at 15 as class valedictorian, being accepted at 6 of the 9 colleges he applied to including stanford, yale, dartmouth and cornell. started attending the massachusetts institute of technology (m.i.t.) in the fall of 1980, moving to cambridge ma with his mother. james and his younger sister remained in tarrytown, where ned and molly would return for major breaks and between semesters.
graduated with his undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering and physics in three years. mary ellen moved back to the family home in tarrytown full time in 1983, leaving ned living on his own for the very first time in his life. started work on his masters in both physics and electrical engineering; quickly got caught up in the college social scene for the first time. went a little over the 'deep end', getting involved with a lot of parties and a lot of undergrad girls. also began working at howard innovations as a freelance contractor, going over plans and upgrades to systems to find and glitches or other potential problems. during school breaks, he would return to tarrytown to work with his father.
halfway through his graduate studies, his mother was in a serious multi-vehicle accident on i-84 just past the connecticut/massachusetts border. though hospitalized for several days, her condition never stabilized enough for her to be transported back to new york and she died on august 15, 1986 in sturbridge, ma. ned and his family were devastated. molly was the glue that held the disparate parts of her clan together; without her, they began to fall apart in their own ways.
not three months after the unexpected death of his mother, ned's namesake, his grandfather edward, also passed away of an unexpected heart attack. ned was especially close to 'big ed'; the loss sent him spiraling into a reckless combination of booze, drugs and sex to cope with his grief. nearly was kicked out of the reading of his grandfather's will due to his unruly behavior. was bequeathed nearly $15 million through the release of a trust fund put together for him by his mother and an additional $15 million cash by his grandfather, with the remainder of his inheritance in h.i. stock, bonds and other annuities. james tried to encourage ned to abandon his advanced studies at m.i.t. in order to start working at h.i. headquarters but ned insisted on finishing out his ph.d, as it was something both his mother and grandfather supported and had expressed their pride in.
was involuntarily checked into in-patient rehab at the Emerson House in Falmouth by authorities about six months after his grandfather's death after nearly overdosing on a cocktail of vodka, valium and other drugs that he refused to disclose to anyone. he was found in the passenger side seat of an abandoned car; he had never disclosed who was driving, if he even remembers. stayed at emerson an additional two months, doing his graduate coursework via correspondence and supervised weekly visits to m.i.t.. during this time, his sister lived in his cambridge apartment. in september of 1987, ned was back in cambridge full-time, completing his masters' degrees in both physics and electrical engineering and beginning his dissertation studies in electrical engineering with a focus on auto-pilot technology for motor vehicles and alternative energy sources in january of 1988
took $7 million of his inheritance money as a principal to found a charitable foundation in honor of his deceased mother and grandfather. the mary ellen and edward howard charitable fund, shortened to the howard foundation, would be a clearinghouse of sorts, using its funds to invest in smaller charities and non-for-profit groups focusing on education, entrepreneurship and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (stem) programs across the country.
met his future wife, giulietta (pronounced 'julietta') natale at a physics symposium at m.i.t. in 1988. she was a graduate of stanford, was doing her graduate course study at m.i.t. in the biochemical department. they initially did not like each other, but ended up having several friends in common and so began to become better acquainted. about six months after they began officially dating, ned proposed and on october 15 of 1989, they were married. seven months later, ned received his doctor of philosophy from m.i.t., completing his formal education. gia received her own while pregnant with their first child. ned's son nathan benjamin was born in december of 1991.
with ned's education completed, james started making more requests for ned and his family to relocate back to tarrytown to work within howard innovations. ned's sister was an undergrad at cornell with an emphasis on business administration; james expected for his son to take over as head of research and development, the role his grandfather held, while his sister kate would follow james in the administrative control of the overall corporation. though gia wasn't pleased about becoming a satellite to the family business, they moved to tarrytown area in 1992 after nathan's (nicknamed 'bud') first birthday, though at her insistence they lived in their own home in north tarrytown (called sleepy hollow today). their daughter ruth was born in 1996
ned's career within h.i. was best described as 'rocky'. there was the usual resentment of the boss's son being placed into a position that many of the more established executives felt he did not deserve or earn and that resentment only grew when ned's natural and learned aptitude for mechanics, building and engineering shown through. he was younger and smarter than the majority of people in the room and they didn't like it. ned's laid back attitude and tendency to act a little bit of the 'rock star' with the more junior members of the research and development division didn't help his cause.
life at home wasn't much better. there was the resentment that being in suburbia caused. though ned made it more than clear that even though really they had more money than they could possibly spend if his wife wanted to work on her own biochemistry career he was more than supportive, she constantly complained about their 'exile' to 'country club westchester'. ned found solace being more of a house-dad, getting away from the stresses of the job by playing with his kids, being at their games, plays and other school functions. his daughter had picked up her father's high intelligence and mechanical aptitude but he made sure to include both his kids in his long forays in the family garage to soup up a motorcycle or rebuild an engine block. he also fought to keep both children within their age-appropriate grade levels, remembering his own loneliness as a child with no-one his own age in school to associate with, much to their mother's chagrin. ned took it upon himself to tutor the kids to keep them engaged with their classwork.
his sister kate also didn't help with the rockiness at work. driven and ambitious, she was trying to encourage her father's desire to grow the business to a much more expansive company by helping him increase funding and focus to the aerospace division and navy contracts for military planes. ned objected, stating that 'big ed's focus had always been on the everyday back and forth types of transportation that helped the country function on a daily basis and that courting federal government contracts put the corporation in a place its founders never wanted to be in. he tried to push the focus onto more radical research into clean energy solutions for their vehicle designs, biofuel and alternative energy sources. when father and daughter started moving into munitions development, ned left the company in an active role in 2003, while choosing to remain on the board to continue to object to the militarization of howard innovations.
leaving h.i. also meant he was free to move back into the boston area with his wife and children, something that gia was extremely excited by and the children less so. choosing to return to cambridge, ned focused all of his energy on the howard foundation and started indulging in his first love, collecting vintage cars and motorcycles. gia gained a position at the boston biomedical research institute, nate and ruthie were enrolled in the international school of boston, a k-12 institution that ensured that even if they jumped grades, they would be together unlike ned and kate. he even started teaching on a part time basis at the bunker hill community college.
in order to repair and restore his grandfather's beloved indian chief, ned often had to either scour supply stores all over new england or wait for parts to arrive from around the country. his first love was mechanics, why couldn't he just build and fabricate what he needed? starting in his own garage, ned unwittingly began the journey from hobby mechanic to what would end up being his business. after purchasing all the equipment he needed--it seemed wasteful to him to be the only one using it. one of the people he knew from one of his twelve step groups had a son who was trying to work on becoming a mechanic but didn't know anyone who needed an assistant. ned took the teenager under his wing, teaching him how to repair and fabricate, sometimes alongside his kids who loved learning how to use daddy's new toys. in a couple of years ned had acquired so many new tools and mini apprentices that he had to find a bigger space. he purchased an abandoned warehouse in south boston to continue his tinkering, traveling to charlestown to teach, heading to the warehouse space to tutor his growing cadre of junior fabricators then back home.
the problems in his marriage only increased. giulietta thought this new project of his was far beneath his skill set. where before she complained about being stuck in suburbia and under the eyes of his family, now she complained that ned wasn't driven enough and was wasting his education. despite the best efforts with counseling and long discussions, ned and gia divorced in 2005. she refused spousal support but they agreed to joint physical custody of their children with ned providing substantial child support. ned moved from the family home to a house in south boston to be closer to his warehouse and mentoring work. needless to say, ned wasn't happy about the turn of events. he loved his wife but he would rather her be happy than force her to continue their marriage. it wasn't until after the proceedings were finalized that he discovered gia was having an affair with one of her colleagues at boston biomedical.
it was difficult not to turn back to the bottle or drugs for ned but he did so because it was different this time. unlike when his mother and grandfather died, he had his children and his mentorees to consider. they needed him clean and sober so he drowned himself in the only thing he could: his work. the group at the warehouse was growing by leaps and bounds. it wasn't just mechanics based anymore. some of his students from bhcc would come to use his tools to manufacture robots, experiment with carbon fiber constructions and it became the hot spot to go when ned got his hands on one of the early 3-d printers. soon he was being approached by craft artists and other small level inventors wanting to use his facility to make prototypes of products.
in 2010, ned stepped down from his professorship at bunker hill to start his very first business: an 'open source' fabrication workshop. for a small fee, people could enroll in a membership scheme which allowed them access to tools, material and workspace in the south boston warehouse, which he finally named 'open toolbox'. along with paying for the maintenance and upkeep of the tools and other machines in the warehouse, membership fees would go to a certain allotment of 'scholarships' for students with ideas for inventions and prototypes but with no resources to fund their manufacture. in addition to the previously mechanic heavy toolset, a surprising number of artistic tools were added, including pottery wheels and kilns, a glass molding and blowing furnace, a textile 'center' with heavy duty cutting and sewing machines and places to stretch painting canvases.
ned's daughter ruth started working at open toolbox from the moment it opened, first on the weekends opening mail and organizing the membership rolls. his son nathan cleaned up and helped ned with the main floor during school breaks and in the summers, much like ned had done his time at h.i. for his father and grandfather. open toolbox became ned's 'mid-life crisis', helping to keep him substance free during the difficult times of his divorce. it gave him a way to maintain the close bond with his children and he hoped, helped to offset what he thought was the bad karma his father and sister were putting into the world as h.i. moved more and more into the munitions and defense armament field.
with nathan now moving into his own career at howard innovations with his aunt in research and development, and ruth serving as the assistant manager and head of educational services at open toolbox, ned spends a majority of his time at the howard foundation's main offices in the prudential center moving its mission of funding worthy charitable organizations forward. this includes helping to organize two major fundraisers a year, as well as attending other events in boston.