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One for the Kids

John Herring

Growing up wasn't easy for John Herring. "I never met my mother; I only met my father twice—once at his funeral," he recalls. "I was born into the Great Depression. Most families then had very little income. My father was an alcoholic and my mother left when I was very young. She was probably scared to death." When a relative reported alcoholism and neglect in the Herring home to authorities, John was placed in an orphanage in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. "There were over a hundred others like me there, most of them there as a result of the Depression. But being there was a godsend," he reflects. "I was better off there than I would have been at home."

Despite the difficult circumstances of his childhood, John excelled in school, even while working as a farmhand to help support himself. He would eventually enlist in the United States Air Force and serve during the Korean War. His service took him around the world, from Okinawa where he flew aeromedical evacuation missions, to Rhode Island where he worked nights to earn his bachelor's degree from Bryant University. After a stint in Bermuda—where he met his wife, H. Rowena "Renee" Herring—John and family settled in Michigan. He earned his master's degree in business and began a career that would offer him experience in sales, manufacturing, finance, and more. His career track eventually brought him to the University of Michigan, where he supervised special projects and mentored graduate students from business and engineering programs.

"I had the opportunity with my business and education experience to work with a lot of great students," John says. "We saved a lot of jobs with the work that we did." Now retired, he still speaks fondly of his 28 years at U-M. "It gets in your system. The students, the sports, the city of Ann Arbor… you just become part of it."

But John wasn't the only Herring to fall in love with U-M. His son, David John Herring (BBA '80, JD '85) earned two degrees from the university. Motivated by his father's experiences growing up, David grew to be a leading voice in child welfare and family law. He eventually served as supervising attorney in the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic at the U-M Law School. The clinic's mission: bring together leading minds in law to advocate for children with circumstances like John's, who too often grow up without a stable home and the resources they need to find success.

David didn't stop there. He went on to serve as dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and helped establish a child welfare center similar to U-M's. In proud recognition of his son's ongoing efforts, John has set up a charitable gift annuity designated to the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic in David's honor. "I feel it's a fitting tribute. It's just a part of me and my son," John says. "We both want to help kids, because there will always be a lot of kids that come along that won't have a good home. The clinic does important work to make sure they have good homes and good opportunities."

And setting up his gift annuity was a cinch, John adds. "They're very helpful. I had a very good experience with those folks at Michigan."

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