Monday, June 19, 2017

Remembering A Voice From The Past

TigerBlog hopes you had a good weekend.

He hopes, if you're a dad, you had a great Fathers' Day.

Today, though, he offers nothing in the way of humor. Nothing lighthearted about Princeton Athletics.

Today is about sadness, as he thinks back about Wendy Herm, who passed away last week. Wendy was 40 years old at the time of her death.

You have to be a pretty devoted Princeton fan to remember Wendy the athlete. She was a softball player, a good one, a two-time All-Ivy League selection, including one first-team honor, before she graduated in 1999.

Princeton won the Ivy League title and an NCAA regional in 1996, advancing to the Women's College World Series. If you go to the records section of the softball page, you'll see Wendy Herm's name on a few of the lists. At-bats in a career. Doubles. Extra-base hits.

TigerBlog's connection to Wendy Herm came through the fact that she worked for him, and his current Office of Athletic Communications colleague Craig Sachson, back when she was a student, along with her softball teammate Katie Bay.

There have been three people who have been the primary public address announcer for Princeton football since the stadium opened in 1998. TigerBlog is the current one. Before him, it was John McAdams, who might have been the only full-time PA announcer of all time. You remember him more as the long-time, legendary voice of the Palestra and Big Five basketball.

Before John, it was Wendy Herm.

As he writes that, TigerBlog realizes that both of his predecessors passed away, much too young. John was 64 when he died, back in 2005.

As TB said, Wendy was just 40.

She spent the last five years of her life battling a brain tumor, fighting it hard to the end. A few days before her passing, the softball team tweeted a message to her from Reunions:

It was touching. It was a sign of the love her teammates had for her and the enduring bond that is formed here among athletes and teams.

TigerBlog can't remember when he first heard Wendy Herm do the PA at a sporting event. When he did, he was impressed enough to offer her the women's basketball job, even when she was an undergrad. That was followed by men's basketball and football.

Even now, nearly 20 years later, there aren't a lot of women who do the public address for college football and men's basketball. Back then, Wendy was even more a rarity.

She was the PA announcer for the 1997 Princeton-Yale game held in Giants Stadium. At the time, she was the first woman to do PA at that stadium - which no longer exists - for a football game. She also was the PA announcer on opening day at Princeton Stadium in 1998, when the stadium was completely sold out.

Wendy's presence behind the mic brought in a lot of media coverage. She handled it very well. You can believe TigerBlog when he says it's not easy to pretend there isn't a camera crew in your face while you're announcing.

It also brought in some condescending letters and emails from some alums, who questioned why we'd have a "girl" do the PA for us.

TigerBlog wouldn't have put her in that situation if he hadn't had total faith in her. And she never let him - or anyone listening - down.

TB would have loved to have her back as the permanent PA announcer, but she went her own way after graduation. Through the years, TigerBlog lost touch with her, and it's possible that he saw her or heard from her maybe three times in the last 15 years.

Still, he always thought highly of her. He always respected how she handled the challenge of being a woman - an undergraduate woman at that - in a high profile role here. He always liked her.

He was saddened when he heard the news that she had gotten sick. He was sadder still when he heard that she had passed away last week.

There are memorials for her this week, including one that sounds more like a party than a funeral.

Still, there's no way to sugarcoat it all. She was bright. She was funny. She was engaging. She was a lot of good things.

And now she's gone. At just the age of 40.

TigerBlog sends his sympathies to her family and friends. He thanks the softball team for its support for her.

One of TB's memories of watching Wendy as a player would be the chant that the team would do when she was at bat. Chanting was a big thing in softball, way more so than today.

When Wendy was up, this is what her teammates cheer:

"Get a hit for me. Get a hit for me. C'mon Hermie, c'mon Hermie, get a hit for me."

TB has no idea why he remembers that. He just does.

It was from a time when Wendy was a young athlete, strong, independent, confident, funny, mature.

It's the Wendy Herm TB will always remember.

In the meantime, he'll just be sad that she's gone. 


Amy Taylor said...

Hi this is Amy, Wendy's wife. This blog entry was passed along to me by someone very dear to Wendy from Princeton. Thank you for writing it, and thanks for describing her as she was: strong, independent, confident, funny, mature. She was all of that and more as an adult. We miss her so much, TB

David S said...

What a lovely memory. Thank you for sharing. (friend of Wendy's from grad school)

TigerBlog said...

Amy - Sincerest condolences on your loss.

Constance Herm said...

Thank you so much for the great remembrance. Wendy loved Princeton. She loved the great education, the softball team and coaches. Wendy especially loved the most wonderful friendships she made. She never forgot anyone. They were all so important to her. Wendy was special. She was my daughter. I miss her desperately. Connie Herm