Howard Beaver was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, in 1925. His father, a car mechanic by trade, worked in a factory and at several other jobs during the Great Depression. When Beaver was nine, his father cashed in his life insurance policy to buy 40 acres of woodland in nearby Reading to create a Christmas tree farm. On weekends and in the summer, he and his father cleared the land and built a log cabin with the wood from the trees. Part of the land was used to grow vegetables, which they sold, and the remaining land became the tree farm, which supported the family.
Beaver worked odd jobs when he was not working on the tree farm, but he still had time to win letters in baseball, basketball, and soccer in high school. He also spent time at the YMCA, where he enjoyed free membership provided by an anonymous donor who was later revealed to be a local Catholic priest. "When we were playing sports as kids during the Great Depression, he also made sure that we had enough baseball gloves and balls," he said.
After high school, Beaver enrolled at Pennsylvania State University, supporting himself by waiting on tables and short-order cooking. A year later, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and soon received a fleet appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. After rupturing a kidney in a soccer game, however, he received a medical discharge.
"I came out of the service a disillusioned young man," he said. "I got a job as a mill employee with Carpenter Technology and discovered I had a real interest in steelmaking and metallurgy." Beaver returned to Penn State and in 1948 earned a bachelor's degree in metallurgy. After that, he rose quickly through the ranks of Carpenter Technology, a producer of specialty metals, including stainless steels and high temperature alloys. Beaver was CEO for 10 years until his retirement in 1981. Under his leadership, the company's base expanded within the United States and to Europe, Asia, and Mexico.
Beaver served as a trustee of Penn State and was active in developing a branch campus in Berks County. Also active in Boy Scouts, Beaver advised young people to use fully their God-given talents and never to cheat or try to just get by. "I always felt that I was born with few talents, but fortunately I was able to utilize those to the fullest," he said. "Like many people, I hope that my presence here on Earth has enriched some other people's lives."