Jeremy Herbstritt was a 1998 Bellefonte Area High School graduate and subsequent Penn State alum who was killed in 2007 while pursuing a Masters degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech.
He was a witty guy with a candid sense of humor. He enjoyed physical labor, cutting firewood and working on his family’s farm. His outlook on life was optimistic; he wasn’t afraid to live, spent his days busy, mostly outside, surrounded by friends and beautiful nature, hiking in Rothrock and kayaking down Spring Creek, running the streets of Bellefonte, filling up on good food afterward, and really, just drinking up this life.
From his mother, our Foundation President…
Jeremy grew up in Bellefonte where he enjoyed spending time outside on our family’s farm year-round. In the winters, he cut firewood. I can still picture him by the log pile splitting logs with that ax. In the summers, he’d harvest his tomato and pepper crops and can sauces with me at the kitchen table with the windows propped open wide. He was a hard worker, always seemed to live enthusiastically for today, was a good kid, was kind to anyone he met, made good conversation, and helped out with anything that he could. He attended high school at Bellefonte Area High where he ran Track and Cross Country. That’s where he found his self-esteem and confidence. He had a great set of coaches who instilled in him an even harder work ethic than he had before. He graduated high school in 1998 and his father and I pushed him to go on to college at Penn State. Jeremy wanted to farm but we thought a secondary education would serve him well. So he followed our instructions and applied to Penn State. He graduated from there five years later with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Two years later, he earned a second Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering also from Penn State. He formed lifelong friendships in college and for that alone, he was glad we pushed him to further his education. By the time he finished his second degree at Penn State he actually liked school, and decided he wanted to go on to graduate school. By then, we missed having him at home and would have been happy if he re-entered our empty nest and helped us rebuild the farm. But Virginia Tech was on his radar and that’s where he went in the summer of 2006 in pursuit of a Masters degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Unfortunately, not even a year later Jeremy was gone. All of that life and energy was swiped away from us in a split second on April 16, 2007. Jeremy was right where he was supposed to be that morning, attending class in Norris Hall, when another student gunned him down. We were devastated, of course. All of our lives changed drastically that day.
Jeremy lived each of his days to the fullest with a passion for the outdoors and for running. He was a good person, a kid who truly cared about how you were when he asked, a kid who truly did want to help you move your piano or clear out brush from your back yard. And so very shortly after we found Jeremy gone from our lives, it seemed only fitting that we find a way to continue living for Jeremy. Considering this, we started The Jeremy Herbstritt Foundation with an initial goal of raising money to help build a Track for the Bellefonte community. Bellefonte does not have a Track facility where the high school students can run or host home meets. There’s not a spot in town where the local running groups can meet in the evenings and do their speed workouts there. There’s not a spot where families can jog around together and not have to worry about their kids running out in the street in front of a car. We want to give the community this place in hopes that doing so will make our community even stronger. We strongly feel that having a sense of community is the foundation for changing the culture of our society from that of one of violence and disregard to that of a collection of people you possess compassion, empathy and a yearning desire to better this world.