Howard A. Prentice, 72, a trade association official here for 25 years before retiring in 1971, died Tuesday at a Burlington, Vt., hospital. He had suffered from pneumonia.

Dr. Prentice came to Washington in 1946 and worked as vice president and secretary of the Corn Industries Research Foundation. In 1956 he joined The Proprietary Association, an over-the-counter drug manufacturers' trade association. He was executive vice president and tresurer until 1967, when he entered semiretirement as a consultant.

He was a member of a number of professional organizations and had served as president of the American Society of Association Executives and the National Drug Trade Conference.

A native of Vermont, he earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Vermont, a master's degree at New York University, and a doctarote in education from Columbia University.

He was a professor and director of athletics and the University of Vermont before serving in the Coast Guard during World War II.

Dr. prentice was a trustee of the University of Vermont, and belonged to the Washington Athletic Club, the Army-Navy Country Club and the University Club.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth W. (Betty), of the homes in Vermont and Naples, Fla.; a daughter, Mrs. Paul Columbo, of Medford, N.J.; a son, David, of Rowley, Mass., and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Respiratory Care Unit, Vermont Medical Center, Burlington.