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Lori Herman, Herb Robinson honored with Ohio State Alumni Awards

Ohio State enjoys a rich history of alumni that have impacted people around the world, especially current and future students. On September 20, The Ohio State University Alumni Association presented awards to eight truly exceptional alums, including two from the College of Engineering alumni.

Lori Herman (BS '00, industrial and systems engineering) received the Dan L. Heinlein award for advancing the university's interests with external audiences, and Herb Robinson (BS '77, industrial and systems engineering) received the Robert M. Duncan Alumni Citizenship Award for exemplifying the university motto "Education for Citizenship" through numerous volunteer service efforts.

Finding perfect fits

Lori Herman is one of some 430 Ohio State alumni working at Ford Motor Co. She can recite that number off the top of her head because that’s the way her mind works—and because she has made it her mission to welcome recruits who share her alma mater.

Establishing and nurturing ties between Ford and Ohio State is in her job description as well. That means cultivating relationships among alumni, most of whom are based at the company’s headquarters campus in Dearborn, Michigan. She joined Ford immediately after graduation and excelled in both manufacturing and design engineering positions, while also earning two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.

Since 2014, Herman has managed the Ford-Ohio State Alliance, a role she describes as “professional matchmaker.”

“If a researcher at Ford has a need, a large part of my job is identifying if there’s a counterpart at Ohio State who can help,” she said. “And I promote what Ohio State is offering that Ford may be interested in. I invite faculty members to give seminars at Ford to spark interest in working with them.”

“Lori is one of the most dedicated ambassadors for Ohio State I have ever met,” exclaimed David Emerling, industry collaborations director at the Center for Automotive Research.

To date, Herman has overseen a portfolio of 75 funded alliance projects involving 56 faculty members or full-time researchers at the university.

“The main reason we collaborate with Ohio State is for the research,” she said. “A nice side benefit is that often we end up hiring students who worked on our projects. It’s a huge win-win.”

As a high school student in tiny Napoleon, Ohio, Herman didn’t have much of a handle on what engineers do. She was good at math, and so she enrolled in engineering at Ohio State but was undecided about a specialty.

One day in an introductory engineering class, she saw a demonstration on process optimization, that is, ways to improve efficiency. “I was fascinated,” Herman said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! This is how my brain naturally works. This is my major.’”

Today, Herman keeps an eye out for potential interns and recruits who share that mindset and enthusiasm.

“If you were a success at Ohio State, you have the opportunity to be a success at Ford. You have to be self-motivated at Ohio State, and Ford is very much the same way. I tell our interns and new hires that if you want to learn things, people here are more than receptive.”

And once they’re on board, Herman makes it a point to welcome them into Ford’s network of Buckeyes through happy hours, game-watch parties and activities sponsored by the local alumni club. It’s a good way to balance work and life, she says.

“I really like my job, but the automotive industry is very demanding,” she added. “I tell students, ‘If you want an exciting career, automotive is it.’”

Serving others

After Herb Robinson’s freshman year of college, he was working as the YMCA aquatics manager when some of the youth asked for his help in forming a swim team. His parents insisted he wouldn’t have time with work, school and other responsibilities on his plate.

But Robinson responded, “I will make time.”

It wasn’t until retirement, though, that he was able to make volunteerism his full-time mission. Since retiring from Procter & Gamble in 2012, the Cincinnati resident has put his heart and soul into his community, often spending 40 hours each week volunteering.

“Citizens really make the community what it is, so I try to do my part to make Cincinnati a great place to live,” he said.

Robinson, a competitive runner with 30 marathons to his credit, serves as the race director for the Feet in the Street 5k, a race with the goal of revitalizing the Avondale community. Last year, he worked to incorporate health screens into the race in an effort to improve preventive care for African American men, whose life expectancy is significantly shorter than their majority counterparts.

Robinson also shares his love of running and his time with youth of the community. Avondale Running Club president Henry Brown called Robinson a surrogate parent of sorts to the youth Robinson has mentored through the Avondale Running Club’s partnership with the local youth council. In one case, it meant teaching a high school student to drive to prepare for the licensure exam. Sometimes it just means being there to advise and support.

“He’s a high-energy, high-integrity guy who gives freely of himself," said Henry Brown, Avondale Running Club president and longtime friend. "Herb puts himself both out there and in there. He causes others to be supportive and want to help, which is a unique kind of skill."

Robinson makes a difference in lives at the other end of the age continuum, too, providing free tax preparation services for the elderly through AARP.

The list of Robinson’s volunteer efforts stretches on and on. He’s president of the board of PAR Projects, a nonprofit that brings communities together through art and education, and he volunteers at the Western and Southern Open, a large Cincinnati tennis tournament that supports charitable causes.

He even applies his scuba skills to volunteering: He and his wife, Barbara, clean the manatee enclosures at the Cincinnati Zoo each month.

At Ohio State, Robinson worked with others in the College of Engineering to establish the Minority Engineering Program Advisory Board, which created three scholarship endowments to help current and future students accomplish their goals.

“There were people to support me and give me the opportunities that I had,” he said of why he volunteers so much. “I just felt like I had to try to give others as much of an opportunity as I could for them to achieve their potential.”

compilation of articles by The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Tags: Alumni