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NewsMakers ’22: Ray Hebert, a scholar and intellect, devoted teacher, family man, friend, and good guy

The third of a series of five stories featuring the NKyTribune’s NewsMakers of the year. Tomorrow: Chuck Session

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

Ray Hebert grew up in a loving home in Rochester, New Hampshire, where his family’s first language was French. He was in a class of 38 students in a French-speaking school where he played baseball and basketball and was a Hall-of-Famer in sports.

He has forever been a team player — by instinct and intellect — but as he moved through St. Anslem College in Manchester, N.H., where he received his B.A. in history in 1964, he figured he was too small to play sports seriously. So, as a student, he took the opportunity to run the intramural program. His fortunate associations there led him to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh where he received his masters in history in 1966.

Through that experience, he learned another important life lesson: Be wise enough to take advantage of opportunities as they are presented. You really never know where the untrodden path will take you.

He taught for a while at Dunbarton College in Washington, D.C, which is where he met an “amazing woman” who was studying biology there. That amazing woman, now Maureen Hebert, became an amazing nurse, wife, partner, and mother, and they have been married since 1972. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren.

TMU President Joe Chillo and NewsMaker Ray Hebert at a celebration of his award on the campus.

It was also while he was in D.C. that he made the acquaintance of a fellow named Leon Boothe, also a historian, at George Mason University. Boothe would later become president of Northern Kentucky University.

Hebert received his doctorate from the University of Maryland in 1975 and on August 10, 1975, he joined the faculty of Thomas More College. The understanding that he and Maureen had between them was that they would stay in Kentucky no more than five years.

Make of this life lesson whatever you will, but Hebert has served Thomas More University and the Northern Kentucky community for 47 years now — and counting. And if you are looking deeper at what was meant to be — Hebert and Thomas More himself share the same birthday.

Put simply, Hebert says Northern Kentucky “is a great place to raise a family.”

The Heberts definitely put down roots, deep roots, and both have been amazing, contributing, and productive members of the Northern Kentucky community, respected and embraced on both personal and professional levels.

Ray and Maureen Hebert

In his semi-retirement, Hebert is currently Executive Director of the William T. Robinson III Institute for Religious Liberty, a role he feels a special passion. He has served in so many roles at the university of his long and productive tenure there, that its too likely some will be missed. But he is a professor of history, immediate past Director of the Gemini Dual Credit Program and Dean of the College Emeritus. He spent fourteen years as Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, fourteen as Department Chairperson of History, International Studies and Political Science over the years, ten as the Director of the James Graham Brown Honors Program, and seven as Director of the Gemini Dual Credit Program.

He has taught or directed 20+ different programs for the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad (CCSA) mostly in England, Australia, and especially Ireland while serving 30 years on the CCSA Board of Directors. He also spent 30 years on the Advisory Board of the refereed national journal Teaching History: A Journal of Methods.

He is a born teacher, and he has touched and molded countless of young lives.

“I observed early on that a person may have a brilliant idea, but if no one is listening, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “You have to get to know people — and connect with them.

“So, first, be a good listener and learn where people are coming from.”

Ray Hebert, Supreme Court Justice John D Minton Jr. and Justice Michelle Keller at a luncheon held in honor of Saint Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers and politicians. (Photo provided)

His book, written in his early years at TMC, is entitled Florence Nightingale: Saint, Reformer, or Rebel? Among his awards, Hebert is an Albright Award recipient for Teaching in Northern Kentucky; has received two “outstanding Full-Time Faculty Member of the Year” Awards at Thomas More; several awards from the Northern Kentucky Education Council for his role as one of the founders and his continuing involvement for decades, including a “Lifetime Achievement Award” and, in 2016, he was a recipient for a Behringer Crawford Museum Two-Headed Calf Award for Education.

At Thomas More University, the Alumni Association also presented him with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” and in 2018, the TMU Academic Affairs Division created a legacy award named in his honor and he was designated the inaugural recipient of the “Dr. Hebert Faculty Service Award.” Most recently, in 2019, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, as part of a 40th Anniversary Celebration of its Northern Kentucky Leadership Program recognized an inaugural class of Northern Kentucky “Leaders of Distinction.” One of those was Dr. Ray Hebert.

He has been active in leadership of too many community-good organizations to name, but the Rotary has been an important and meaningful one for him. Suffice it to say that Ray Hebert has been a contributing member of the larger Northern Kentucky community all his life here.

These days, he is writing the history of Thomas More University as it completes its 100th year — and he also writes for the Our Rich History weekly column at the NKyTribune.

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