Howard Bliss was born in Souk-el-Gharb, Lebanon, on December 6, 1860. He received his elementary education in Souk-el-Gharb, then left for the United States, following in his father's footsteps, graduating from Amherst College in 1882. He then joined the Union Theological Seminary, and was granted a scholarship which allowed him to pursue his studies for two years at Oxford, Berlin, and Goettingen.

Upon the retirement of his father, Howard Bliss left his work as minister of the Christian Union Congregational Church in New Jersey, and came to Beirut to assume the responsibilities of president of the Syrian Protestant College.  He was inaugurated in May 1903.

He was a man of high principles, and was highly respected by the Turkish rulers of this part of the world. During World War I, even though Turkey and the United States were in opposite camps, the College never closed. Many of the College's overseas students were stuck in Beirut, unable to return to their homes. Howard Bliss made sure that neither these students nor the rest of the College would ever be wanting; it was difficult times but he managed to pull through until after the war. Living under stress during the war years may have contributed to his premature death on May 2, 1920 aged 59 years.