A young man struggling with alcoholism was on a downward spiral, until he met with Whayne Herriford ’71. Now, he is more than a year sober, and his life is on an upward trajectory.
“You get wins once in a while, and that really feels good,” says Herriford, a private practice trauma therapist in Cincinnati.
Herriford transitioned to working as a therapist in 2011 following a successful career in human resources. Today, he helps his clients overcome a myriad of mental and emotional challenges – and given the anxiety and complexities exacerbated by the pandemic, his services are in high demand. “It’s gratifying work because you can see results.”
Helping others has long distinguished Herriford. At SLUH, he organized a walk to end hunger with fellow students in the fall of 1970. The Jr. Bills started and finished their walk at SLUH, earning money each mile to benefit a local food pantry.
Herriford, who grew up in Most Holy Rosary parish in North St. Louis, focused on building bridges at a time when America was tepidly embracing social justice. As the secretary of his class during senior year – and the first African American elected to Student Council at SLUH – he strived “to figure out a way to address and mitigate diversity related issues.”
“More than any one person, Whayne influenced my growth and evolution from an ignorant, naïve South St. Louis kid to someone hyper-aware of how race affects outcomes in America,” says friend and classmate Joe Castellano ’71. “He challenged me to reflect on my perceptions, biases and actions. It wasn’t easy. He pushed me. He called me out. He inspired me to look a layer below my self-perception.”
“The U. High will always hold a special place in my heart because of the relationships I built,” says Herriford, who earned an MBA from Stanford University and a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health from Northern Kentucky University.
Reflecting on his life’s work, Herriford recalls not accolades or achievements, but rather, how he has impacted others. A gentle, quiet man of great humility, he recalls how he helped in “the development of the understanding and appreciation of differences” with students at SLUH. He proudly talks about how he helped his two adopted sons to “build a life for themselves.” And, Herriford reflects on how he decided to pursue a new career, instead of retiring early, to provide hope to those struggling from the effects of trauma and addiction.
Beyond his profession, Herriford continues to live out the Man for Others ideal as Chair of the Human Rights Commission in his local community, board member of Cincinnati Red Bike (bike sharing nonprofit) and organizer of Room at the Table community DEI dinners/courageous conversations. He also stays connected with his SLUH classmates and dedicated many hours to creating a special video series for their 50th Reunion.
“While I believe much progress has been made since we were teenagers, it breaks my heart to see how far we have to go to fulfill our country’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of our citizens,” says Castellano. “But I am buoyed to see so many people challenging us to do even better. If there were more Whayne Herrifords around, we would get there faster.”