A Remembrance of Vincent John Hovanec
By Rosemary Crockett
Vince Hovanec died in Bonita Springs, Florida, on November 21, 2019, following an acute brain incident.
Born in New Rochelle, NY, Vince earned a BA in History from Dartmouth College. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves 1958-1965, attaining the rank of Captain. He worked as a journalist for The Wall Street Journal and for The St. Petersburg Times when the latter won the Pulitzer Prize (for Public Service) in 1964 for exposing widespread illegal acts at the Florida Turnpike Authority. During his 21-year career with USIA, Vince served in Guyana, Niger, Nigeria, Gabon, Zaire, Yugoslavia, and Mexico. According to The Temagami Times, he worked for Sprint Global One following his FS career.
Vince was always willing to engage anyone on practically any topic. He thrived on interacting with people, places, and new ideas. He was my boss in Kinshasa, Zaire, in the mid-1970s for my JOT follow-on assignment. As AIO, he immediately put me in charge of running the Information Section. We put out a monthly newsletter in French, had a photography operation, and a recording/radio studio. We were responsible for reporting to the Ambassador on the morning VOA broadcast, because President Mobutu listened to it and would call the Ambassador if he heard something he didn’t like. As one of the larger offices on the African continent, we were always busy with something — a SecState visit or green monkey disease, which slowly came down the Congo River from Kisangani to Kinshasa, killing Zaireans and foreigners alike. Vince was assigned a number of special tasks, like supervising the erection of a huge geodesic dome for an international exposition.
Vince took a special interest in the junior officers and taught us a number of management and social skills, like “Always check the mail room” and how to drink champagne properly. Fortunately, my apartment was within walking distance of the latter “training class.” When the staff photographer, a middle-aged Zairean male, refused to take instructions from me, a younger African-American female, Vince came quietly out of his office and told the staffer, he could take orders from me or find another job. On performance appraisals, he clearly stated, she runs the Information Section, giving me credit for everything I did. Best tennis partner and boss I ever had!