Kevin B. Herbert, a former assistant professor of classics at Bowdoin (1955-1962), died February 10, 2015, in University City, Missouri.
Kevin Herbert, professor emeritus at Washington University, former chairman of the Classics Department and curator of the John Max Wulfing Collection, died Tuesday (February 10, 2015) of heart failure. He was 93 and lived in University City.
Professor Herbert was a native of Chicago, Illinois. He grew up playing sandlot baseball and cheering for both the Cubs and the White Sox depending on which uncle took him to the ballpark. Later, he attended Loyola University where his classical studies were interrupted by the advent of World War II. Enlisting in the Army Air Force, he served as a tail gunner on a B-29 in the Pacific Theatre, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and 11 air medals. In 1983, he published an account of the war years in Maximum Effort: the B-29s Against Japan. General Curtis LeMay ordered a copy for every U.S. military base in the world.
After the war, he received a Ph.D. in Classical Philology from Harvard University and began what would be a 60-year long teaching career. He taught at Marquette University, Indiana University, St. Paul’s School, Bowdoin College, and finally, Washington University where he taught from 1962 until 2008. Professor Herbert taught everything from Greek and Roman history to ancient technology, warfare, art, and religion. From 1968-1994, he was curator of the John Max Wulfing Collection at Washington University, one of the premiere coin collections in the country. During that period, he published several books highlighting the collection’s hidden gems.
Professor Herbert was an intrepid traveler—whether leading study tours or retracing the footsteps of Alexander the Great—but he took equal delight in his adopted city of St. Louis. He photographed the city’s architectural treasures in order to draw comparisons to ancient structures. He wanted his students to understand that the classical tradition was not simply languishing in the past, but alive and well and all around them.
He never lost his love of baseball. Sunday afternoons would often find him at the ballpark with his wife, Margaret. He had become an ardent Cardinals fan and proudly wore his Redbirds cap everywhere he went.
He is survived by his daughter, Cathy and her husband, John Reilly; two grandchildren, Jane and David; a brother, William Herbert of Evanston, Illinois; and a sister, Jean Wilson of Oswego, Illinois. Another sister, Patricia McKillip, died in 2011. His wife, Margaret, died in 2013 and his son, John, in 1995.