Edith Howle has been passionate about new ideas since she was a little girl. After a bicultural childhood and a two-decade career advising the biggest companies in the financial industry, Howle now spends her time bringing the internationally known TED brand of conferences to Charleston. Recently she talked about her inspirations, why she loves this city and her quest to make TEDxCharleston a formative event for the Lowcountry.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up both in Japan and in South Carolina. My mother is Japanese and my father is a South Carolinian. Talk about a mix of cultures! I was born in Japan, and then lived in the United States until I was 8 years old, when we moved back to Japan for five years. At 13, we came back to South Carolina. I had a happy childhood, but because we didn’t have a lot of money, there was an inherent drive to succeed. My friends all had things I couldn’t have, like cars or trips to Europe. I was happy but I knew I wanted more out of life.
Tell me about your professional experience.
After graduating with a master’s degree from Clemson University, I became a management consultant. I was in the commercial sector for 21 years helping some of the country’s largest financial businesses with their technology strategy. I retired as a partner from Booz Allen Hamilton (now Booz & Company).
When did you move to Charleston and why?
My husband and I moved here in 1998 when we retired. Having spent a large portion of my childhood here, we wanted to be back in South Carolina so that we could enjoy the beauty and serenity of the Lowcountry.
What is TEDxCharleston?
hTED is a global nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It started 25 years ago, bringing together people from three worlds: technology, entertainment and design. In this spirit, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. TEDxCharleston is designed to enrich the Charleston community through entertainment and talks that inspire, engage and transform, providing a TED-like experience at the local level. Our goal is to empower the thinkers, visionaries and teachers of the Lowcountry by providing a platform for creativity and idea sharing.
When did you initiate TEDxCharleston?
We held our inaugural event in May 2013, and it was a big success. Our 2014 TEDxCharleston event is scheduled for April 8 and its theme is “Ripple Effect.” Speakers at this event, which we are in the process of finalizing now, will inspire with ideas that are having a lasting, ongoing effect in areas such as the environment, education, parenting, philanthropy, technology, arts, food, fashion, health care and more. These speakers will show that even the smallest ideas and actions can have an exponential impact on our community and our world.
What inspired you to bring TEDxCharleston to this city?
I knew that we have very interesting people in Charleston and wanted to provide a platform for them to speak, to bring out the unheard voices in our city. Our 2013 TEDx-Charleston event included speakers such as Winslow Hastie, a 13th-generation Charlestonian and the chief preservation officer at Historic Charleston Foundation; Bill Stanfield, founder and CEO of the Metanoia Community Development Corporation, a grassroots movement of people focused on the holistic redevelopment of some of our region’s most vulnerable neighborhoods; Teresa Bruce, a one-time Olympic hopeful-turned-writer and broadcast journalist; and Jennifer Baker, an associate professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston with an interest in applying ancient ethical standards to modern-day life. These speakers inspired us, blew our minds in some cases, and, with just one short presentation, were able to make their voices heard. Bill Stanfield received a contribution from someone in Connecticut who watched his TED talk online. Giving your brightest minds in the Lowcountry a platform to share their “ideas worth spreading” is critical to raising Charleston’s reputation as a thought leader.
When and how can people register for TEDxCharleston?
Registration will be announced soon, and people can secure their seats by going to tedxcharleston.org. This year will be amazing, and I know our audience will leave with lessons and inspirations they can take with them in their daily lives.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I’m going to sound like an old lady, but I love quilting. Recently, my husband and I went on a pilgrimage to 88 temples in Japan. At each temple they create a calligraphy piece for you. I’m creating a quilt out of those images. I also make Japanese dolls, called Kime Kome, made out of wood pulp and covered in silk.
Who has inspired you?
My mother. She was a strong, determined woman and encouraged me to make something of myself. It was very difficult for her to come to America speaking no English and not understanding American culture. She had to learn our language, learn to cook American food. It was a lonely time for her. Despite the hardships, she made it work. Recently I spent six weeks in Japan, where I found out what it was like not being able to speak the language or even read. I couldn’t find yogurt at the grocery store, for example. It was a real eye-opening experience and made me appreciate what my mother went through even more.
Kira Perdue is a public relations professional and freelance writer based in Mount Pleasant.