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John Howard began his career as an architect after achieving a degree in architecture from the University of Notre Dame, which included a year of study in Rome, Italy.  He later earned an MBA in international finance from the University of Chicago, prompting his career in international business, which has taken him to more than 70 countries around the world.  He worked in Japan for almost two years, and served as managing director of a central European real estate development company shortly after the wall came down.  For more than 20 years, he designed, constructed, developed, and invested in real property in more than 15 countries.  

In 2010, John stepped down as head of real estate at a private equity firm in London where he managed two leading real estate investment funds with total asset value in excess of $5 billion.  John’s current focus is building Close Friend Foundation into a lasting and self-sustaining enterprise.  


Marty Howard has had more than one career in the past 35 years.  After graduating with honors in english and art from Northern Illinois University, she worked for five years as a graphic designer and technical writer.  Then, looking for new challenges, she embarked on a 24-year career in marketing, sales, customer care, and senior management, primarily working in the telecommunications arena for AT&T and IBM.   

Although fortunate to have had many wonderful assignments, she most enjoyed her global role, in which she directed and coordinated teams across multiple geographies, including North America, Asia, Latin America, and Europe.  In her most recent role while living in London, she was AT&T's Vice President of marketing for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa).  

After an early retirement in 2004, Marty went back to school earning a masters degree in general psychology, and is now focused on community volunteerism and philanthropy related to the Foundation.

Close Friend causes benefit from our founders' active participation and decades of business experience. Our philosophy of responsible giving ensures that all contributed funds are given to causes that practice due diligence, oversight and transparency. Our track record of accomplishments has stimulated others to join us in the support of these causes. Third parties are invited to join Close Friend to make a quantifiable difference while having peace of mind that donated funds are used wisely.

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