Journalist or veterinarian? In seventh grade, Trish Herr’s DVM ’60 English teacher assigned them an essay: write about an occupation. She considered her two loves – writing and caring for animals – chose the latter and never looked back.
“I was focused,” said Herr. “High school was not about boys and getting married. It was about getting into college.”
About the same time she chose her profession, she decided that she would attend Cornell. Of course there were a few nay-sayers along the way. Her Cornell advisor, for example, told her that she would never be accepted into the veterinary medicine program.
“I guess I just never listened,” said Herr, who speaks candidly about the gender discrimination she faced, but is equally clear to say she took it in stride. “My parents encouraged me to go to college. My brother wanted me to follow him to Iowa State College, but that veterinary program did not consider women. We were New York residents, though. I had always planned on going to Cornell.”
Fortunately, Cornell did accept women. Herr enrolled in 1954 as a CALS student, transferring to the veterinary college in 1956, where she was one of four (ultimately only three) women in the DVM Class of 1960. Her male classmates, she says, were like big brothers, and the bond developed among the female students was reborn in June when they returned to the College to celebrate their 50th class reunion. There were fraternity parties, weekend escapades, and even some “wheelies in the parking lot,” for these otherwise very determined and passionate students, who all – even the ladies – had to enter the small animal clinic through the men’s locker room, because Dr. Leonard required that the clinic’s front doors be locked. Herr also recalls earning Dr. Francis Fox’s respect with her “man-like” reaction to pain.
“We were riding on a farm call,” she reflects. “I shut my finger in the car door. Everyone was watching me, waiting for me to cry. I didn’t. I think I earned Dr. Fox’s respect that day.”
More importantly, she learned how to be a successful veterinarian. After graduation, she met and married Don Herr DVM ’63. In 1964, they opened a mixed animal practice. Don spent most days on the road, handling large animal calls, and Trish managed the small animal cases in the clinic. Soon after opening, the practice evolved, serving only small animals, with Don handling most of the surgeries and both having their own client lists. In 2003, they sold the practice, although Don still works one day a week for the new owners.
“It’s different now, because I’m retired, but if you’d asked me before ‘who I was,’ I would tell you a veterinarian,” said Herr, who was, and continues to be, recruited by state organizations to provide leadership for the profession. “I’m also a wife, a mother, and a member of the community, but my identity was as a veterinarian. Cornell made this possible.”
To that end, Herr is a loyal supporter of the College’s annual fund and most recently made a gift to the Class of 1960 Scholarship Fund.
“I followed my dream at Cornell,” said Herr, who now sells antiques and has authored several books about Americana pieces. “I loved my time at Cornell. It was my opportunity. Simply a wonderful experience. I support Cornell, because of these feelings and so that others, as many as possible, can experience all Cornell has to offer. Just like I did.”