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Howard Dayton was born on October 7, 1943, in Albany, Georgia and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida. After graduating from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University in 1967, he served two and a half years as a naval officer. In 1969, Howard developed The Caboose, a successful railroad-themed restaurant, in Orlando, FL. In 1972, he began his commercial real estate development career, specializing in office development in central Florida. In 1970, Howard began to meet with a group of businessmen who introduced him to Jesus Christ as his savior. Three years later his business partner challenged him to study the Scriptures to discover what God teaches about handling money. They discovered the Bible contained 2,350 verses dealing with money and possessions, and Howard's life profoundly changed. God gave him a passion to share the life-changing principles he discovered, leading him to write eight books, and five small group studies that have been translated into dozens of languages.
Howard founded Crown Ministries in 1985 and developed an effective small-group financial study. Dayton served, without salary, as CEO of Crown. Crown Ministries merged with Larry Burkett's Christian Financial Concepts in September 2000 to form Crown Financial Ministries, the world's largest financial ministry at that time. During his tenure as CEO, the ministry taught more than 50 million people in 88 countries God’s way of handling money and operating a business. He was named among the Top 20 CEOs of Christian Organizations, and the ministry was recognized as one of the “Best Christian Workplaces.”
Howard served as Crown's CEO until 2007, when he transitioned from that role. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate from Asbury University.
In 2009, Howard founded a new ministry, Compass - finances God's way, and serves as the CEO as a full-time volunteer. The vision of Compass is to teach people worldwide how to handle money and operate businesses God's way. As of 2014, Compass has expanded into 48 countries.
On March 28, 2014, Asbury University dedicated the Howard Dayton School of Business.
Howard and his wife, Beverley, have two adult children and grandchildren and reside in Orlando, Florida.