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SPOTLIGHT: “Detroit Howard,” Allied Trades, Detroiter

As a kid, Howard McLauchlan stuttered and struggled to focus in school. Now a drywall finisher on the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University construction site, the Detroiter has honed his speech and his skills after 31 years as a working professional.

“I had to teach myself to slow down,” said McLauchlan, a Turner-Brooks employee and member of Painters and Allied Trades International Union, Local #2353. “Doing drywall, I can focus on one task and finish it.”

For McLauchlan, finishing the walls and ceilings inside the building— which was made possible by a historic $40 million donation from the Ilitch family—is about protecting the future of Detroit.

Known as “Detroit Howard,” it’s not hard to understand how McLauchlan earned the moniker.

When he arrives to work in his signature overalls, he dons a battered, decades-old gray Detroit Lions hard hat. He pops up at the city’s annual Thanksgiving Parade every year, dressed up as “Santa D.” In 1998, he made national news because of his 4-foot-tall Stanley Cup hat and beard, which had been shaved to read, “Red Wing” for the team’s anticipated NHL victory.

Pro-Detroit stickers disguise the underside of his skateboard and he insists on wearing a different Detroit shirt every day when traveling. Known to dole out Little Caesars gift cards to strangers, he recently served the pizza, along with Better Made Chips and Faygo pop, at his 50th birthday party in December.

McLauchlan said profits for his custom “D100” rings, which feature an Old English D made of sterling silver and 24K gold nuggets, help feed the homeless and underserved in and around Detroit Eastern Market. The Old English D, popularized by the Detroit Tigers logo, also appears on his matching necklace and a tattoo promoting the phrase, “2BUDO.” McLauchlan said he coined the expression, “To be, you do,” to encourage people to manifest their destiny.

Born to a Jamaican mother and Canadian father not long after the 1967 riots, McLauchlan said the business school project is especially personal to him. The site is part of the Woodward Avenue bus route he once rode to attend church and visit his grandmother in Canada.

“I can do my job and leave my mark on my community,” said McLauchlan, a former automotive process engineer. “This building will prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders.”

When the business school debuts this summer, it will feature new academic programs, a corner café, a small business incubator pop-up and other modern amenities. 

About The District Detroit

The District Detroit is one of the largest sports and entertainment developments in the country. Located in the heart of Detroit, this 50-block, mixed-use development led by the Ilitch organization unites eight world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues in one vibrant, walkable destination for people who want to live, work and play in an exciting urban environment. Home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions - The District Detroit represents the greatest density of professional sports teams in one downtown core in the country.

Current data from the University of Michigan demonstrates that The District Detroit will account for an economic impact of more than $2 billion by 2020 and create more than 20,000 construction and construction-related jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs.