Springfield was where I developed as a person
As a freshman at Springfield College in 1960, Herbert H. Jervis ’64, G’66, took a compulsory Western Civilization class. Twice a week, individual professors in the history department lectured to the freshman class while the rest of the departmental faculty sat in the rear, listening. While they were clearly well-informed on the material, these colleagues took the time to engage so they could do their best at leading individual, small-group discussions at week’s end. “They’d heard these lectures over and over and over again, but they were there,” Jervis recalls, with long-held admiration still evident in his voice. “That kind of commitment to student learning was just amazing.”
At Springfield College, Jervis says the biggest value was learning how to learn. “You’re not intimidated to try something new,” he says, noting that mindset allowed him to redirect his career path multiple times.
Jervis was so struck by the ways in which Springfield College informed and shaped him as a young man that he began to give to the College in the mid-1970s as a post-doc earning only $10,000 a year. Recently married, and on a tight budget, the donation was important. “Springfield was the place where I really developed as a person,” he says. “It’s a terrific institution.”
At Springfield College, Jervis says the biggest value was learning how to learn. “You’re not intimidated to try something new,” he says, noting that mindset allowed him to redirect his career path multiple times. While he came to Springfield College as a talented high school athlete set upon a career as a physical education teacher, he pivoted into biology as a sophomore. After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1964, he entered a Master’s in Education program here, completing it in 1966.
A stint as a U.S. Army infantry school instructor solidified the idea that Jervis wanted to teach advanced sciences. He enrolled at Florida State University, where he met his wife, Mary, two graduate degrees later—a second master’s and a PhD in molecular genetics—and a two-year post-doc in algal biochemistry at Virginia Tech, Herb began teaching at Adelphi University. Having been awarded tenure, Jervis thought his profession was secure, but his tennis partners—lawyers—introduced him to the fascinating world of intellectual property.
After earning a law degree from St. John’s University in the late 1980s, the last phase of Jervis’ work life was spent as a successful attorney who helped scientists secure patents for new biotech inventions. One major highlight was winning a case at the U.S. Supreme Court. After retiring at age 60 in 2002, he co-authored a book on patent law, and he taught at a law school in Jacksonville, Fla. “Springfield enabled me to take all these different steps with a high degree of confidence,” he says.
Throughout his impressive career, Jervis continued to give to the College in many ways, deepening the connection over time and building on his philanthropy. He served on the Board of Trustees for more than two decades, and Herb and Mary have been generous with their financial resources. He has provided substantial support to the Class of 1964 scholarship fund over the years. The couple also made a $1 million bequest to the Springfield College biology department and offered a gift that supported the renovation of Schoo-Bemis Science Center, where a genetics lab is named in Herb and Mary’s honor. Recently, they made a leadership gift for the new Health Science Center, in particular, for the furnishing of the “maker space,” where new ideas, techniques, and devices for improving health, wellness, and rehabilitation will be developed. “That was attractive to me,” Jervis says, ever the scientist/lawyer. “If there are any inventions, that’s a spot where it would happen.”