By Gabrielle Fimbres
Blessed with a kind heart and an infectious spirit, Howard Rosenberg made life better for children and adults living with type 1 diabetes in Tucson and throughout the nation.
By expanding the National Father’s Day Council throughout the United States, Rosenberg helped to raise more than $50 million for diabetes research. He died July 22 in Los Angeles.
With his encouragement, Rosenberg’s son – Steve Rosenberg, publisher of BizTucson magazine – founded the Father’s Day Council Tucson in 1995. The nonprofit organization has raised nearly $3 million for research and improved treatments for type 1 diabetes at University of Arizona’s Steele Children’s
“Howard was a giant among men,” said Dr. Fayez K. Ghishan, director of the Steele Center and head of pediatrics and physician-in-chief at The University of Arizona Medical Center – Diamond Children’s.
“He understood the business aspect of raising money – and he understood how to get the most from the money to enhance the research,” Ghishan added. “He had a major national impact.”
In the 1980s, Howard Rosenberg served as chairman of the Father’s Day Council Los Angeles, which produces the annual Father of the Year Awards Gala, honoring role-model fathers and benefitting diabetes research. He had the vision to produce the fundraiser in markets across the U.S.
Today, the National Father’s Day Council raises funds for the American Diabetes Association in 36 markets. Tucson is home to the only chapter that puts its money to work locally.
“We are truly indebted for life for Howard’s vision of allowing us to have the money raised stay in Tucson,” Ghishan said. Rosenberg met with scientists to delve into the latest research and the possibilities for developing improved treatments and ultimately a cure.
As a result, UA and Ghishan have established a multi-disciplinary program caring for 700 children with type 1 diabetes, recruiting five pediatric endocrinologists, a dietician, nurse educator and clinical psychologist.
“What we have built here is recognized by the American Diabetes Association as a center of excellence,” Ghishan said. “When I arrived this was truly a desert – medically speaking – with no pediatric endocrinology program. Without Howard’s vision, we would not have this incredible diabetes program – and now his son will carry on that vision.
“Howard’s legacy will live on forever – and this program will remain forever for the kids of Southern Arizona.”
A native of Baltimore, Rosenberg was a veteran of the U.S. Army and served during the Korean War. He received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Baltimore and was a prominent executive in the men’s apparel industry for more than three decades.
He was known by his family as the consummate Renaissance man. As a child he performed in vaudeville and he was an accomplished pianist.
His passion for music carried throughout his life. In 2001 – inspired by his love for his wife, Gayle – he created and played the piano on a CD of songs by American composers. He recorded it at Mad Hatter Studios in Los Angeles, a popular recording studio among entertainment legends, including Frank Sinatra.
His son Steve said, “There will never, ever be another Howard Rosenberg. This was one courageous, loving, giving, opinionated, self-confident, talented, creative, organized, competitive, intelligent, ethical, thoughtful and spiritual man. He was a big-picture guy – a visionary.”
Rosenberg was a family man and a champion fundraiser until the end. He may have lost his 24-year battle with prostate cancer at age 81, but his good work continues.
Dana Verrill, executive director of Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council in New York City, said the council is dedicated to carrying on Rosenberg’s work.
“Howard’s contributions to the growth and success of the Father of the Year regional events is measurable regarding funds raised and fathers honored,” Verrill said. “It is impossible, however, to appreciate the number of people impacted by his energy, passion and commitment for finding a cure for diabetes.
“Howard had a deep love for his family and the heart of a saint,” Verrill continued. “His legacy will continue. That is a promise.”
Katie Gibson, a director at the American Diabetes Association in Alexandria, Va., said Rosenberg was driven by his desire to honor great dads and raise funds for diabetes. “If it wasn’t for Howard’s passion and drive, this event wouldn’t have grown to where it is now.”
Richard Schaefer, senior VP and branch director with The Schaefer Present Investment Group, was in on the ground floor to help
create the Father’s Day Council Tucson. He knew Howard Rosenberg for 30 years, having become friends with his son at the UA.
The elder Rosenberg became like a second father to Schaefer.
“I never got off the phone with him without a smile on my face,” Schaefer said. “He was one of those giants whose shoulders I stood upon. He improved and influenced my life.”
Rosenberg was honored by the Father’s Day Council Los Angeles with a Father of the Year Award in 2005.
“Howard was the kind of person who walks into the room and you feel this energy,” Schaefer said. “People feed off this energy and this good feeling. He always had a smile and a twinkle in his eye.”
Rosi and Benjamin Vogel grew to love Rosenberg through Father’s Day Council Tucson. Their two sons have type 1 diabetes.
“Howard showed us all by example how a good life, raising a good family and helping so many people along the way creates a legacy that will outlive us all,” she said.
“A true gentleman he was – the way he dressed, spoke, told stories – inspired and charmed all those around him.”
Faye and the late Sidney Morse were Rosenberg’s friends for decades – she for 30 years and he for 50. She fondly recalls morning runs when she and her husband would pass “this gorgeous, GQ-looking man out for his walk. He was the most dapper man. His beautiful smile and chuckle-type laugh were priceless.”
Linda Johnson met Rosenberg when she became involved with Father’s Day Council in 2005, after she and her husband Brian Johnson – managing director of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort – moved to Tucson.
“Howard was a mentor and a cheerleader for our board,” Linda said. “It’s amazing that this tiny volunteer force has been able to raise nearly $3 million over the past 20 years.”
“There are certain people who you want to please and make them proud, and that’s what happened with Howard,” Brian added.
“I would walk through a wall of fire for him. He was a man to be admired and a man to be emulated.”
Lee and Laura Shaw also became close to Rosenberg through Father’s Day Council Tucson. Lee, a partner in Ansaldi Shaw Design, is chair of the council. Laura is VP for marketing and
communications with Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities. Their daughter, Olivia, has type 1 diabetes.
“If it wasn’t for Howard starting this in his community of Los Angeles, Father’s Day Council Tucson would not be a reality and we would not have made the significant impact we have in raising money for Dr. Ghishan and the Angel Wing at Steele Children’s Research Center where my daughter Olivia is a patient,” Lee said.
“The impact Howard has had on our lives personally is great and our family is forever grateful.”
To contribute to the Howard Rosenberg Father’s Day Council Memorial Fund
to benefit the University of Arizona’s Steele Children’s Research Center, go to