The University Record, May 20, 2002

Herbert continues community role

By Theresa Maddix

Herbert departs (Photo courtesy of U-M Photo Services)
For years, Norman Herbert, in business suit and tie, would run from work to meetings at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF). That was not the real Norman, says Cheryl Elliott, Foundation president and CEO. When not coming from his business office, Herbert would show up to meetings dressed in a “warm, calming manner. That’s the real Norm in his red fleece,” says Elliott.

For more than 34 years, Herbert wore the usual business attire of one charged with managing the University’s finances for the investment office. University Treasurer since 1990, he has helped the University’s endowment grow dramatically to billions of dollars, and was involved in the University’s achievement of a triple-A rating by Moody’s Investor Service.

Now, Herbert is retiring as treasurer and those who know him strictly as associate vice president of business and finance, may think of this as a good moment for him to stop and smell the roses.

He is—at least by his standards. Herbert just got back from a trip with his wife to England to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)—the Company that presented England’s War of the Roses at the Power Center last year.

That done, Herbert continues with his version of relaxation. He’s charging ahead with a whole host of University and civic involvements. “I don’t intend to slow down,” he says.

Herbert has never been a stereotypical bean counter. Instead he’s filled his time coaching hockey for the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association, serving on the MLK symposium planning committee and working with the Washtenaw County League for Planned Parenthood. “He’s incredibly well-rounded and personable, somebody you want to be around,” Elliott says.

“He really loves the arts,” she says, and is very engaged with the University Musical Society (UMS). Herbert has held many officer positions at UMS through the years, including board president.

UMS Director Kenneth Fisher gushes about Herbert’s contributions. “Norm is an extraordinary person: he is honest, has enormous integrity, does his homework thoroughly, is patient and understanding, demonstrates great loyalty and support, and, of particular importance, Norm will always tell you what you need to know even if you don’t want to hear it! He’s an absolute gem!”

Fischer remembers a time about a decade ago when UMS was having financial difficulties. “The combination of his financial know-how and his deep commitment to the arts—his father Ralph was a Metropolitan Opera singer and stage director—were instrumental in reversing the course of UMS’ financial situation. We got out of debt, built a comfortable reserve and grew our endowment. Norm has remained an active member of our budget and finance committee and is now working as a volunteer with UMS Administrative Director John Kennard to forecast UMS budgets for the next five years.”

Herbert is no less involved in the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation where he is not only on the board but is incoming chair in April 2003. Elliott says the foundation had to woo Herbert for quite a while before he agreed to join the board. “He has a lot of major volunteer commitments and takes them all very seriously.” Herbert only joined the foundation board when he felt he had the requisite time to spend.

“He is one of the most amazing board members I’ve ever worked with.” Elliott reports. “He is the total package. He has an incredible knowledge of finances and endowment.” But, Elliott emphasizes, he is about more than numbers. “Norman gets the whole picture. He is very committed to all facets of our mission and is the perfect board member, always willing to make the time. He reads every piece of information we give him. Now, he wants to push the foundation to take us to the next level.”

After playing a key role in tobacco divestment at U-M, Herbert is now focused on using interest earned off the State of Michigan tobacco settlement revenue to provide grant money for youth and seniors through the AAACF Healthy Youth, Healthy Seniors Fund.

He also has worked as director and treasurer of the Veritas Insurance Corporation and is a trustee of the Commonfund. The Commonfund, founded in the early 1970s with U-M as one of its founding members, allows “schools and colleges to take advantage of the best money managers and to participate in partnerships they have an interest in,” says Herbert.

Herbert and his wife also continue to be staunch supporters of their alma mater, Earlham College. He has served as vice president and regional representative for Earlham’s alumni association, and a member of the its investment committee. He continues to advise the college’s foundation.

Herbert has occupied many physical offices over the years at U-M: from the LS&A building, to the Fleming Administration Building, to Wolverine Tower. Now in his home office he can wear red fleece any time he wants to.