the missed opportunity 

By John Greiner, 1993 Inductee

Just about everyone can look back in life and recognize missed opportunities. So it is with me and H.H. Herbert, a journalism icon who came to the University of Oklahoma in 1913. He was a professor of journalism for 46 years, 26 of them as head of the department. He founded the Interscholastic Press Association in 1916 and the Sooner State Press in 1920.

I came to OU 58 years ago not knowing what I wanted to be. I thought I might want to write. Dr. C. Joe Holland, a mentor who helped me get a job when I returned from the Army, helped me. At some point, it was suggested that I go see Professor Herbert. He already had retired in 1959 and was a David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus. I tried, but each of the three or four times I went to his office it was closed. Finally, a secretary saw me and asked if she could help. I told her I wanted to see Professor Herbert. She told me he had been sick and would be gone for some time.

In those days, students couldn’t enroll in journalism courses until their sophomore year so they could concentrate on mandatory arts and sciences courses during their freshman year.

I moved on, wrapped around my required courses in arts and sciences.

I never knew much about Professor Herbert until I started to research and write about him. He was born in 1888. In his early years of teaching, he had a saying that one cannot forget, “You may have forgotten a lot of history of journalism, but you’ll never be the same after having studied it.”

In his first three years at OU, according to his biography, he taught every journalism course offered. During his tenure, journalism as a major was not offered until 1926. Bachelor of arts degrees previously were granted in arts and sciences with certificates in journalism. In 1935, 18 seniors received bachelor’s degrees in journalism; graduate work has been offered since 1930.

In the OU Journalism School’s first 50 years, 1,443 students earned bachelor of arts degrees and 65 received master of art degrees. By 1938, at least 263 students were practicing journalists.

In 1959 when Herbert retired, 25 of his former students were in Washington, D.C. and 28 were on the Who’s Who list of journalists. He became professor emeritus at the university and that same year was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In 1961 the Journalism School was named the H.H. Herbert School of Journalism, and 10 years later he was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. Professor Herbert died on October 2, 1980. 

H.H. Herbert