TCU Daily Skiff Friday, February 06, 2004
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Small-town roots, love of chemistry guides Herriott
As one of three provost candidates, Arthur Herriott shares stories of his career, education and family.

By Lacey Krause

Arthur Herriott’s first paying job was making photocopies the old-fashioned way. On Saturday mornings, he would go into a darkroom and use a mounted camera to make photo sheets. He could make about 10 copies in three hours. Eventually, Xerox machines made his job obsolete.

“The lesson was that the job market changes, sometimes quickly,” he said, “and one cannot rely on a single skill for long-term employment.”

This lesson, learned at a young age, is one Herriott believes to this day: There is a lot of value in a liberal arts education.

“Liberal arts are an important part of the training of any student,” he said. “You’re not just training them for an immediate career.”

Herriott, one of three provost candidates, was born June 17, 1941, and grew up in East Palestine, Ohio, a community of less than 5,000 on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. His parents taught him to “brush your teeth, comb your hair (and) wear socks that match,” he said.

During childhood, Herriott developed a love of athletics that would follow throughout his life.

“My excitement with sports began when I was ill in the spring of first grade and listened to the Cleveland Indians baseball on the radio every day,” he said.

He went on to play for his high school football team, which lost only one game in the three years he played. Herriott played second string quarterback, moving up to first-team defense during his senior year.

“In a small town, your talent level isn’t as important as wanting to play the game,” said Herriott’s wife, Polly.

When Herriott left for the College of Wooster in 1959, it was natural for him to continue with athletics. He played football for a year, but a knee injury knocked him out of the game. He decided to move on to track, where he competed in sprints, hurdles, jumps and relays.

Herriott lived in the campus gym for free during his years at Wooster. He played track, while the three others who lived in the gym played football, baseball and basketball.

“This gave some unique opportunities for late night swims, shooting baskets, etc., as well as a certain image on campus,” he said.

During the summer of 1960, between his freshman and sophomore years of college, Herriott attended a dance in the neighboring small town of Columbiana, Ohio. There he met a young woman named Polly, who was between her sophomore and junior years of high school.

“I was just so flattered to be asked to dance by someone who was in college,” Polly said.

The two hit it off because they had many things in common, Polly said. They both came from big families and enjoyed participating in outdoor activities.

“One of the first dates we went on was a miniature golf date,” she said.

After keeping in touch and dating off-and-on for a few years, the two married in 1964.

When he began college, Herriott aspired to be a high school science teacher and football coach. His aspirations changed by his senior year.

“Some professors inspired me about chemistry and suggested that I am for graduate school and research along with teaching,” he said.

Chemistry became Herriott’s main academic interest. He followed the subject through graduate school and went on to teach it. He received a B.A. in chemistry from Wooster in 1963 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Florida in 1967.

“Chemistry is fascinating because it enables us to understand all those things around us — what is wood, salt, water — and why do they behave the way that they do,” Herriott said. “My biggest enjoyment comes from solving problems — asking why questions and then figuring out the answers.”

Outside of the classroom, Herriott participates in a variety of activities. He’s an avid reader, attends music and arts programs at FIU, enjoys the opera and participates in various athletic pursuits. He has won the title of Fastest Executive in the Miami Corporate Run, a 5K race for members of the FIU community.

He works out several times a week and has passed his love of the outdoors on to his two sons. He was an assistant Boy Scout leader and coached soccer for his sons’ teams. He also always made time to attend ball games when his boys were little and the family took many camping trips.

“He likes making fires and catching snakes and that kind of thing,” Polly said.
The couple’s oldest son, Greg, 33, is a construction project manager living in Georgetown. Jeff, 31, is an assistant professor of music and communication media at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Herriott says moving to Texas would have both pros and cons.

“Trading hurricane preparedness for tornado preparedness may be a toss-up,” he said.
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