Herschel Herndon

Inspired by his mother's voice, Herschel Herndon creates a legacy of hope

By Mayo Clinic Staff

"My view is that Mayo Clinic is for everyone," Herschel Herndon says.

After a 25-year hiatus from running marathons, Herschel Herndon made a New Year's resolution in 2011 to regain the fitness that allowed him to compete in earlier marathons.

It wasn't easy. The first time he laced up his shoes he could barely run a mile.

Herschel kept running, however, and before long he had that old feeling back, just like when he was in his 20s. His initial struggles were replaced by a craving for his workouts, which led him to run the Portland Marathon in October of 2011.

"That was pretty exciting, and I thought, 'I could come back,' " recalls Herschel, who is 56. He made plans to run the Berlin Marathon the following year. When it came time to train for Berlin, however, a foot injury threatened to derail his training. Following the advice of his Mayo Clinic physician, Herschel turned to the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center for Performance Enhancement for help.

"They conducted an in-depth analysis of my running style, my stride, my gait, and made recommendations that could help me stay healthy and in shape," Herschel says.

Herschel followed the prescribed regimen of stretching and exercises, and the results were dramatic — his training stayed on track and he completed the marathon in Berlin.

"It was a remarkable feeling of accomplishment," he says, adding that running through the historic Brandenburg Gate as part of the marathon is a moment he'll never forget.

The expert care he received from the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center for Performance Enhancement, along with the care his family members have also received, has fueled and inspired Herschel's support for Mayo Clinic. He's also inspired by Mayo's innovative approaches to research and personalized patient care.

This inspiration has led to Herschel's personal estate commitment to Mayo Clinic. Part of the funds are designated to support breast cancer research as a result of family members who have breast cancer.

"Breast cancer is prevalent in my family and many others, and I'm learning about the care that is needed not only here in the U.S. but even around the world," Herschel says. "So it's something that has been very near and dear to my heart, to try to help people who have been afflicted with breast cancer and have the best and the leading edge of research and treatment available."

Herschel also views his commitment to Mayo Clinic as a way he can leave a lasting legacy for future generations just as his mother did through the example she set for others.

In the early 1980s, shortly after Herschel graduated from college, his mother, Kathryn, visited him while he was living in Kansas City, Mo. They stayed up late into the night talking about her life, inspiring Herschel to pull out a tape recorder to preserve the life stories and lessons his mother shared with him that night.

"My mother was an incredible woman," Herschel says. "She earned advanced degrees in the 1940s and 50s, at a time when that was difficult for African-American women to do so, then dedicated her life to teaching others."

Time passed, and in 1996 Kathryn suffered a massive stroke. She was no longer able to speak, but Herschel had the tape. He has played it again, both with her present and for friends and family after her passing. In both cases, he said, it was a powerful experience for everyone involved.

By supporting Mayo Clinic, Herschel envisions what he has done, now and in the future, as a legacy to his children.

"My mother left us her voice in an audio tape about her life and her vision for us," he says. "This was her legacy to us, her children, just as Mayo Clinic will be a legacy to my children."

As Mayo Clinic celebrates its sesquicentennial this year, Herschel is enthusiastic about doing what he can to help ensure that the vision of Mayo Clinic will live on for another 150 years. "My view is that Mayo Clinic is for everyone."

Editor's note: Herschel has served as vice president of talent relations and chief diversity officer at Best Buy Co. Inc., and as vice president, local market development. Prior to Best Buy, he was the director of global communications and diversity at The Stanley Works in Connecticut. Most recently, he founded Minneapolis-based HRH Global Connections, LLC, where he serves as president.