Jim and Judi Herbert, both UT alums, challenged the UT community to raise $500,000 during the Big Orange Give, November 8, 2017. The reward? An additional $500,000 to help us meet the $1 million goal. Thanks to the generosity of our Volunteer community, we exceeded the $1 million goal and the Herberts designated their challenge gift to the Writing Center.
“The Writing Center is very dear to my heart,” says Judi Herbert, who graduated UT in 1963 with an English degree. “I wanted to contribute to something that could serve not just freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, but could make an impact on the entire university.”
Growing up, Judi loved to read. She was also good in math and science, however, and scored high enough on entrance exams that it looked like she was headed in that direction.
“I started out in education and during that time, it seemed most girls would be a teacher, which didn’t appeal to me at all,” Judi says. “During my first year of college, I started taking literature courses and became a grader for a teacher of a freshman English course. That’s when I developed a love for English.”
Over the years, Judi has continued to work with college students, but she has noticed a disturbing trend. Recent college graduates do not have good writing skills.
“I’ve just been appalled at their writing skills,” Judi 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) met with people from the Writing Center and 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 school.
“It doesn’t make a difference what students are doing – nuclear physics, business, science, agriculture – they still have to be able to express it,” Judi 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. We see so many people come out of other disciplines that have never been taught how important it was to be able to express themselves so that other people can understand the subject or issue at hand.”
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,” Kirsten 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.”
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,’” Judi 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, give back, and make a difference.”