The Write Investment
Judi Herbert loves to read. She grew up reading books, but when it came time to choose a career, it looked like science or math education would be her path.
“I scored high enough on the entrance exams, so I started out in education,” Herbert says. “During that time, it seemed most girls would be teachers, which didn’t appeal to me at all.”
As a freshman, she took an English literature course and developed a love of English. She became a grader for an English teacher, changed her major, and graduated from UT in 1963 with a degree in English.
She has always been exposed to writing and over the years, continued her work with college students. Recently, however, she has noticed a disturbing trend. Many college graduates do not have good writing skills.
“I would review the resumes of young people coming into my husband’s business and would be appalled at their writing skills,” Herbert says. “When we became re-involved with UT, I wanted to make sure that no one would graduate from our university with the kind of writing skills I was seeing from some other very fine schools.”
Judi and Jim (’62) challenged the UT community to raise $500,000 during the Big Orange Give, a one-day campaign that took place November 8, 2017. The reward? An additional $500,000 to meet the $1 million campaign goal. The Volunteer community exceeded expectations and raised $1.45 million.
The Herberts designated their $500,000 challenge gift to the UT Writing Center. They decided their support could help expand the reach and impact of the center not only for freshman taking an English course, but for students in upper-level courses in different majors as well as graduate students.
“It doesn’t make a difference what students are doing – nuclear physics, business, science, agriculture – they still have to be able to express it,” Herbert says. “It’s one thing to know it, but to be able to communicate it to someone else, to be able to write for applications, resumes, publications or any kind of paper, is important.”
Kirsten Benson, director of the Writing Center, says the Herberts’ gift will make a big impact on the number of students the center serves.
“We’ve pulled back a bit in the past couple of years because we were getting too big and felt we couldn’t provide what the students need,” Benson says. “The Herberts’ gift will help start an undergraduate tutoring program. We will also be able to offer more targeted help to first-year students.”
The Herberts’ generosity will also make it possible to expand the services offered in the Writing Center, including the kind of help offered to upper-division students who are not English majors.
“We want to provide the upper-division students with more discipline-specific support for their writing,” says Allen Dunn, head of the Department of English. “We also want to be able to work with faculty across campus to make sure we are giving students exactly the kind of guidance they need to succeed.”
Jim and Judi Herbert are excited to begin their journey of support for the Writing Center and to give back to the university.
“Jim’s philosophy in life is ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’” Herbert says. “We make that our philosophy for philanthropy. We’re just thrilled to be at a point in our lives where we can do more and make a difference.”